Volunteer jail ministers gather for annual training

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By Sarah Bennett

More than 300 volunteers filled the seats Monday night at Vine Grove Baptist Church for an annual training session for the Hardin County Detention Center’s jail ministry.

According to Jailer Danny Allen and Chaplain Larry Vance, the county’s jail ministry is the largest in Kentucky.

“There are volunteers in the jail every day of the week, year round,” Allen said.

To volunteer as a jail minister, Vance said the participant must be affiliated with an organization and approved by its leader. They then must undergo a background check.

Those who attended Monday night’s meeting represent 32 organizations, he said. Many of the volunteers will make a trip to the jail at least once a month, Vance said.

The majority of volunteers are affiliated with a Christian organization, Vance said.

When a volunteer group visits the jail, it’s announced throughout the detention center, he said. Inmates are given the freedom to choose with whom they want to meet, Vance said.

On Monday, Vance went over a list of instructions with volunteers, which included directions such as not to be offended by an inmate’s language or discuss their crime. The jail’s training director, Jeff Grigsby, also spoke with volunteers about the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Vine Grove resident Perry Jackson said he began volunteering at jails two years ago when he lived in Chicago and continued to do so after he moved to Hardin County.

Jacksonsaid he’s experienced struggles in his own life and through family members. Through his ministry, Jackson said he wants to help those struggling now.

Allen said having volunteer ministers available to speak with inmates is important, especially for those experiencing life changes.

The volunteers can help inmates cope with recent incarceration or the death of a loved one, he said. They also can speak with inmates who don’t receive visits from family or friends, Allen said.

While briefly addressing the crowd, Maj. John Timbers, chief deputy at the detention center, said, “If it turns the life of one person around, it’s working.”

The room of more than 300 volunteers responded, “Amen.”

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.