South Carolina inmates baptized behind bars: 'Jail can be the very beginning of the ultimate forever'

Darlington County Sheriff's Office
18 inmates were baptized Sunday at the W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center. |

Eighteen inmates at a South Carolina jail were baptized this month, demonstrating “jail doesn’t have to be the end; it can be the very beginning of the ultimate forever.”

On Facebook, the Darlington County Sheriff's Office revealed that inmates at the W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center were baptized on Oct. 6 “under the guidance and supervision of local ministers.”

“Jail doesn’t have to be the end; it can be the very beginning of the ultimate forever,” read the Facebook post. “The support from the ministers and other leaders right here in our own community is strong. A group of Veterans, led by Rep. Robert Williams, come in to mentor the men. Please continue to pray for the amazing happenings at the W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center.”

Pictures included along with the post showed inmates being baptized and holding hands in prayer, drawing praise from dozens of commenters. 

"God bless those who are ministering. Every soul is valuable and precious,” wrote one commenter.

"Wonderful, we all have a past ... let's pray for their future," wrote another. 

Darlington County Sheriff's Office
Darlington County Sheriff's Office

Darlington County Sheriff Tony Chavis told Fox News an initiative to mentor inmates started after a Stop the Violence meeting at the beginning of the year.

Chavis suggested getting ministers and mentors on the local level "in an attempt to stop the return of these young men and women back into the system. If we are able to touch one of these lives for Christ ... that they know they don't have to stay in a life of crime, so they would have a way out of prison through the Lord."

“People care about them," he added, "I care about them. I care about their safety. I care about them beyond my walls here at the W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center."

He told Fox News that initially, just 10 men were supposed to be baptized, but the number quickly grew to 18, bringing it to nearly 30 who have been baptized in a few months. 

In addition to sharing the Gospel with inmates, the prison reform focuses on mentoring and helping them get jobs.

"We are very fortunate to have local ministers to come in and work with them," he said.

Several churches and ministries across the U.S. have sought to impact the lives of incarcerated and troubled individuals by opening campuses within prisons. 

In November 2018, Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, opened a campus within Coffield Prison. Since then, hundreds of inmates have attended the service and over 1,000 have made decisions for Christ. 

In June, five rival gang members risked their lives to get baptized together as a result of Gateway’s ministry.

“When they came in the gym, the guards had to separate them on both sides so they couldn't get close to each other just in case violence would break out.” Niles Holsinger, Gateway Coffield Prison campus pastor, revealed at the time.

Yet those five men from two different gangs “professed the same Lord and were baptized in the same water and they walked out together in a line, guards not holding onto their arms anymore because God had done something in their life.”

Over the next two years, the church reportedly plans to open 10 prison campuses within 100 miles of existing Gateway campuses.

In January, Emmanuel Church in Indiana similarly launched campuses at Johnson County Jail, Johnson County Community Corrections work-release center and the Theodora House, a Volunteers of America women’s recovery center near downtown Indianapolis.

Rachel Long, the executive pastor of multisites and families and a former developmental therapist, told The Christian Post the church plans to launch more sites in the future. 

“The way that we view it is that they can't come to Christ inside these dark places without someone having the courage to go in,” she said. 

Scott Highberger, a self-proclaimed former “career criminal” who now serves as the outreach and prison pastor at Road to Life Church in Michigan City, told The Christian Post that those in prison are "thirsty" for the hope found in the Gospel. 

“What I really preach from the rooftops is that Jesus leaves the 99 for that one,” he said. “He left those 99 for me and He grabbed ahold of my life in prison. There is hope for that drug addict, the alcoholic, the career criminal, the one that is so far gone that you think they can never be redeemed.”

“Abundant life,” he added, “can be found right there in the jailhouse.”

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