Inmates participate in Orange County Corrections Division’s Faith-Based Program. Note: Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic where CDC distancing guidelines were not in place.

From the Orange County Government, Florida Newsroom

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the way the Orange County Corrections Department operates. Public access to the jail has been limited due to the virus – including chaplain volunteers and speakers in the Department’s Faith-Based Program. Normally, these volunteers and speakers are responsible for conducting as many as 17 church services per week. Without their assistance, the entire program, which includes many inmates, seemed destined for failure.

Fortunately, Corrections Chaplain Leo Gonzalez and the inmates who were already in the Faith-Based Program took matters into their own hands and decided to organize self-study Bible classes, which they scheduled several times a day from Sunday through Friday. Once in the dayroom, the inmates break up into smaller groups and study the Bible at their own pace.

Most of the time, the inmates use Bible study lessons from Christian Library International (CLI) and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) Special Ministries. When each lesson is completed, they can take a test, fill out the answer sheet and return it to the publisher to be graded. In return, inmates receive either a certificate or encouraging words from a Bible minister, as well as another lesson in the series.

“So far, the program seems to be working,” said Orange County Corrections Department Master Correctional Officer Thomas Bulone. “This program means a great deal to the inmates. Each of them has a sincere desire to change the behavior that put them in jail in the first place. The Faith-Based Program provides a setting where the participants find meaning, hope, and purpose in their lives.”

According to an inmate who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry from the International College of Ministry while housed at the Orange County Corrections Department, the program has allowed him the opportunity to study the word of God, and he appreciates the diversity of viewpoints he is exposed to on a daily basis. Additionally, he believes the program has taught him a lot about patience and tolerance, and he would like to eventually minister in the future.

Thankfully, the Orange County Correction Department’s Faith-Based Program continues to provide the inmates with the knowledge, confidence, and willpower to improve their character and have a positive impact on those around them.

 

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