Inspiring inmates

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Williams Jimmy Joe Robinson, a member of Faith Christian Family Church, tells an anecdote to Curry County Adult Detention Center inmates during a religious service held at the center Wednesday evening. Terry Craft, also of Faith Christian, attends.

By Keely McDowell: CNJ staff writer

Many volunteers and missionaries travel around the world to spread faith, but some local volunteers are helping those in spiritual need locally.

The Curry County Adult Detention Center is home to approximately 180 to 200 inmates, many of whom have never had religion in their lives, according to officials. In order to introduce inmates to a higher power, trained volunteers from churches go to the jail each evening to minister to those who are looking for faith and forgiveness.

The inmates who choose to participate in religious services have a calmer temper, behavior and attitude on a daily basis, according to Chief Deputy Warden Audrey Barriga.

“We take anything we can get to help them (the inmates) see the light at the end of the tunnel each day.” Barriga said. “The volunteers give them faith.”

Samm Smith, who teaches drug rehabilitation classes at the detention center, said inmates use their knowledge of a higher power to overcome drug addictions and to find strength.

“I get great feedback from the inmates about the classes and church,” Smith said. “They look forward to class, church and library time. We have church volunteers in the library and they discuss a lot of religious reading material with the inmates. So, they get to experience a higher power there as well.”

Although Barriga and Smith said they pray for the inmates to keep the faith when they are released, they said returning to the community and avoiding the temptations outside the detention center walls is difficult.

“I think it is at the very least education and an experience for them,” Barriga said. “The inmates who attend church can’t leave worse than they came in.”

About 20 church volunteers participate regularly in the program, according to Smith.