Several years ago, I was asked to help lead a Bible study at the Garland County Detention Center. I thought my purpose was to help the women grow in their walk with the Lord. Little did I know, the experience would change me, in ways I could not have imagined.
As a child growing up, I never worried if there would be food in our home, or if the electricity would be on. I certainly was not concerned that someone might come into our home with the intent to threaten or harm us. But for many of the women I meet in jail, instability is the norm of life. They did not experience a safe and secure childhood, but rather one where drugs, violence, and abuse were common. Then, as they grew into adults, many followed in the same life pattern, because it was all they knew. Countless women I have met in the jail say that being there has been a blessing in disguise. It has given them a “time out” from their life, and lifestyle, and they can now see there are opportunities for a new and different future for themselves and their families. Many of the women take advantage of the educational programs offered in the jail. There are parenting classes, Celebrate Recovery, multiple Bible studies, Getting Ahead, plus many more. Some complete their GED, which provides them the equivalent of a high school diploma. With a GED certificate, they have more employment opportunities open to them.
One of my biggest joys in life is when I run into one of the ladies I met in jail, and she tells me how her life has changed for the better. She has a job, her children back, and a home of her own. The hope she has for a better future for her family radiates from her face. Her hope was made possible because she acted on the opportunity placed before her while in jail. Being in jail is not a place one would think lives are being changed for the better. But in our community, it is true!
– JANIE SMITH