Local Chaplain is Reaching Out to Prisoners

Many view prison as a place of punishment for people who no longer belong in society, but a local chaplain sees it as a place of opportunity to reach individuals struggling with life choices.

For 13 years, Chaplain Joe Collins has served the spiritual needs of inmates at the Harrison and Hancock County jails. Wednesday night, he explained jail life to the members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Gulfport. Collins says, “When that first door slams shut behind you, when you’re walking down the hall, smell the smells of jail, hear the sounds, the noise, it can be pretty unnerving.”

Collins works for Good News Jail and Prison Ministry. His job is to involve himself in the lives of individuals who have made poor life choices. Collins also says, “This is restoration. We’re restoring people into the right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.”

William Shurley, Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian, says, “There’s, I think, a distinguishing between retributive justice and restorative, and we’ve really heard the story of restorative justice tonight.”

Collins’ work has given him special insight into the religious culture of the local jails. He says, “Worship and study in the jail is generally much freer, it’s much simpler than you would find in a church. So the inmates have an opportunity there to just be themselves.”

Over the years, Collins’ work with the inmates has affected his own personal religious outlook.

Collins closes, “They’ve made me much more compassionate and understanding toward men and women who struggle with their addictions, who struggle with their behavior, who struggle to overcome their upbringing and what they have been taught growing up.”

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