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Jail ministry offers chance for a better life
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Being enclosed in a room filled with inmates is something most people might find unsettling, but it's something Ken Horstmann and Robert Washington have done every week for the past three years.

The duo, from First Baptist Church of Covington, minister to Newton County Detention Center male inmates every Monday night through a program called "Quest for Authentic Manhood." Washington said the idea behind the ministry is to help young men in prison become better men and apply God's word to their lives.

Thus far, the 24-week program is a success with almost every class filled with prisoners wanting a change.

"There's a big backlog of inmates who want to be part of the class," said Washington. "The young men I talk to want to change, but they are missing manhood qualities."

The want for change is apparent Monday night, as inmates enter the class with smiles and greet Horstmann and Washington with handshakes and hugs as they rush to their seats.

The classes begin the same way every week, with all 16 inmates, including Horstmann and Washington, gathered in a prayer circle holding hands.

"Deliver us from evil and give us strength," said Washington as he began the group prayer followed by each inmate.

After prayer, Washington delivers a message to the men about trials and how to act in troubling situations with integrity by listening to God.

"Who's talking to you when you are doing bad things?" he asked the class. One prisoner responded, "I listened to the devil." "Exactly," said Washington. "When you commit crimes you are obeying Satan, not God."

Nods of agreement by the men followed his message, but it's not all about teaching for Washington and Horstmann.

"I don't come here to teach," Horstmann said to the class. "I come here to learn."

After the lesson, the class broke into two groups where the men reviewed the lesson and talked about personal trials and tribulations they were dealing with.

One inmate expressed that he believed it's not just the devil that causes people to do bad things.

"Everybody says the devil made me do it, and I say the devil didn't make me do it, he was right there with me."

Washington said he wants the program to continue to grow and hopes to help provide the inmates with the right tools to become better men.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown said he believes the He-Man Prison Ministry along with the bevy of other ministries that serve county inmates are helping to make a difference in their lives.

"I've received letters from inmates that describe the various ministries, and tell me that since going through the programs, they have the tools to make it in society," he said. "I'm a firm believer if we are able to save at least one person... that is one person returning to society and having an impact on others."

The main contributions from programs are that inmates are learning to accept responsibility for the reason they are incarcerated and to accept authority, Brown also said.

"I think now they want to take the lead in their lives or situations that they are in," he said.

For more information about He-Man Prison Ministry contact First Baptist Church of Covington at (770) 786-9031 or Rev. Robert Washington at (678) 625-0655.