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by Elizabeth Smith, Prison Ministry Coordinator

Our jails and prisons are full of desperate men and women.  In the State of Georgia alone the headcount in state, private and county prisons, transition centers, and inmate boot camps is presently 53,087. In addition there are 142,223 on probation and 22,966 parolees on record.

Building and maintaining prisons is one of the fastest growing "industries" in the United States. More and more men, women, and children are being incarcerated each day, forcing communities to build additional jail cells. We've been hearing on the news recently how some of the jails and prisons in Georgia are filled beyond capacity and understaffed.

Most inmates arrive at a prison or jail with few earthly possessions and even less supporters. They have had a very traumatic experience and often begin thinking about what went wrong in their past life.  They feel hopeless and that their lives are over with no hope for ever having a future.  But is it over?  Is prison really the end?

This is truly the day for the Church to step beyond its boundaries and offer hope through the Gospel to a world disabled by dysfunction. The endless cycle of drugs and violence, coupled with the moral depravity in today's society, can only be conquered by Christ.  Locked beneath the trappings of addiction, prostitution, crime, and homelessness, lay silent treasures waiting to be released.  Every time our certified volunteers go into a prison, we see a room full of possibility and hidden deposits of greatness with a destiny.  It is our firm belief that even the most hardened of criminals, or troubled youth offenders, can be touched and changed forever by the power and love of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ who died for the forgiveness of ALL sinners.  Those who accept His sin sacrifice on their behalf receive forgiveness and eternal life.  As a result, they can return to their families as role models, to the church as a gift to the Body of Christ, and to the community as evidence of the love, power, and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are many skeptics who do not believe this is possible, but my Pastor is a living example that a person can change from a life of crime to a successful Life in Christ.  We also have many others in our church who were once in prison or jail, but are now holding positions in the church and serving the Lord.  If you are reading this and you are locked up or know someone who is locked up, don't lose hope.  There is life after prison with Jesus Christ as your Savior!