GREENSBURG — Fifty-nine inmates at the Decatur County Detention Center were baptized on Monday as part of a continuing effort to prevent recidivism among local offenders.
Eleven women and 20 men were led into a small holding cell at the jail (eight to 10 at a time) as each took their turn being fully immersed in the waters of a horse-trough “baptistry” pool.
Led in prayer by Chaplain/Program Director for Decatur County Detention Center Dave Burnett and Residents Encountering Christ’s Mariann Scudder, each committed to changing their hearts in what may be outgoing Sheriff Dave Durant’s greatest accomplishment during his four year term.
During the construction phases of the DCDC, Sheriff Durant pressed city leaders for extra space in the new facility for added rehabilitation programs, both faith-based and non-faith based.
One of his missions early in his tenure, Durant planned to change the hearts of the inmates with programming designed to prevent them from returning to incarceration after their release.
In 2019, Durant told the Daily News “everyone knows that the longest distance to travel is the 18 inches between the head and the heart.”
“If you can change the heart during that journey, everything will follow suit. Whether it be alcohol or drugs or poverty that are creating the cycle, we only have to change their hearts to stop the process,” Durant said.
With the Residents Encountering Christ program, inmates were offered a chance to examine their lives with the help of Christian counseling and peer-to-peer discussion.
The Decatur County United Fund provided funding for educational programming and life skill enhancement programs through the secular Moral Reconation Therapy, all toward the goal of giving inmates a way to look at themselves through fresh eyes in an effort to stop them from reoffending.
And that work was rewarded, not only by teaching the inmates to help themselves, but also by the chance to be part of a new tradition at the Detention Center.
After their baptism, each participant was given the chance to sign the outside of the trough, adding their names to the list of “reborn” inmates passing this way before.
“Since the first REC, which was just a few months after Dave (Durant) took office, they started writing their names on the side of the tank,” Burnett said. “It’s become a tradition since then.”