Creek County Inmates Reborn From Behind Bars
CREEK COUNTY, Oklahoma - From inside the Creek County jail, 100 of the 270 inmates incarcerated were baptized.
On Tuesday nights in the Creek County jail there is always music, ministry and inmates lined up to hear the message.
“Get out of my bunk and go down there, listen to the Good Word, it always gives me a little bit of inspiration,” inmate Cade Bristow said.
But this week there were also two horse troughs filled to the brim with baptismal water that Chaplain David Toliver said gave 100 inmates the opportunity to be reborn, despite being behind bars.
“You're dead in your sins and Jesus comes and raises them back to life,” Toliver said.
Dressed in orange jumpsuits, 51 men and 49 women were baptized, most of them for the first time, like Bristow, who is locked up for not paying child support.
The others are incarcerated for anything from sexual assaults, to drug charges, to not paying court fees, but the chaplain doesn't care what's in their past, just what's in their future and in their heart.
“I see them as...they could be a Christian instead of a criminal,” Toliver said.
Toliver is with the Creek County Jail Ministry, which is a volunteer group of 80 Christians representing a number of faiths and churches from the area. The ministry was created more than 15 years ago and offers counseling, drug and rehab programs and church services.
“I can't change their lives, I can only tell them about Jesus and how he can change their lives,” Toliver said. “We know that if they take this and march forward with it that they can be a different person.”
Detention Services Director Kelly Birch said the jail was technically built on a foundation of faith.
“In 2005, when the jail was first built, the church ministry has actually buried Bibles on all four corners of the building here,” Birch said.
He said the inmates requested the baptismal service, some of whom have been in jail up to a year. Birch said he always sees positive change in the inmates involved with the ministry.
“Most of them will have a prayer circle before they get locked down in their cells at night,” Birch said.
And while they're all under lock and key, the inmates said they're experiencing a freedom they've never felt before.
“WWJD, walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. That's what I'm trying to do and I think it'll be a lot easier now,” Bristow said.
Sheriff John Davis said the service went so well, he hopes to do it again in the future. A baptism was held at the jail once before in 2006.