The Jessamine County Ministerial Association works with the Jessamine County Detention Center’s Resilience Program, which focuses on helping inmates implement a life action plan upon their release.
Pastor Carol Devine has been a part of the program since February 2017 when she was asked to volunteer by program leader Moe Mercier.
“My personal primary goal is for them (inmates) to realize that they are made in God’s image to love and be loved and that God desires to have a relationship with them based on forgiveness and love,” Devine said. “These men work hard with me and many other volunteers, putting in hours of individual and group work.”
The program works through staff and volunteers offering their time to help an individual complete 12 lessons and work to implement a life action plan full of personal accountability. Mercier said the program works by helping inmates know what needs to change and what are some of the key components of change to help them achieve a better life.
“I coach all the lessons one-on-one and one per week,” Mercier said. “It is a little more than three months and they have to teach a class at the end about what they learned and they all get feedback from their peers. … I have seen good results for those who want to change.”
Moe continues to work with them once a week as a group upon release, Devine said. Although the group is starting to see many inmates return within a few months to JCDC.
“They do not have the support network to help them along,” Devine said. “(So) God began to push me to do something more to help these men.”
In the program, Mark Johnson currently conducts presentations for inmates telling them about the program and how to apply.
“To be accepted,” Devine said, “they have to be willing to do their part which is to meet with their group once a week for three to six months and then staying in touch for one year.”
When inmates are first released, Devine said contact is made every day by a text or a call. After six months, the contact decreases. Training is also required for any volunteers who may want to help.
“You have to go through the training before you can be assigned to a mentoring group,” Devine said. “You have to be committed to the process. It requires more time at first, but the group decides where and when to meet based on their schedules. Also, because there are three to six people in each group, if someone has to miss to be out of town or something, the rest of the group can carry on. Mentors get as much or more out of this program than the people we are serving. I have been deeply blessed by my participation.”
Johnson also said that volunteering for the program is rewarding.
“Volunteers must complete a six-hour training session and the time commitment is minimal,” Johnson said. “It includes the training session, once per week in-person meetings that last approximately one hour and daily contact through telephone, text, email or in person. Since one client works with a group of three to five mentors, the work is shared and less of a commitment.”
Mentors, Johnson said, cannot work with clients who are related or close friends. They also should not be on active parole or supervision, and must be over 18 years old.
Devine said Kentucky’s incarceration rate is the ninth highest in the nation and according to the most recent data, 40.7 percent of inmates in Kentucky were reincarcerated within two years.
“Without some type of change in the commonwealth, Kentucky’s prison population by 2027 is projected to increase by 19 percent,” Devine said. “The cost is expected to grow by $600 million within that same time frame. Currently, drug court is only offered to felony offenders at the circuit court level which doesn’t allow for the problem to be corrected at an earlier stage in a person’s criminal behavior. Many of the men who get out of JCDC return within one year. Everyone is impacted by the drug epidemic. This (Resilience Program) is a real solution.”