WARSAW — Living in Transition Effectively, the new jail ministry program expected to launch this spring, will be aimed at reducing recidivism rates and preparing inmates for re-entry into society.
LITE Coordinator Tammy Cotton and her husband, Chris, came up with the idea for the program after their daughter was incarcerated for a year and a half at the Kosciusko County Jail.
“She would call home and share with us how sad it was to see women, time and time again, released and then a month — or even a week — later, they would be back in jail,” Tammy Cotton said. “Many times she would hear them say that they feel safer there, or they have nowhere else to go.”
Cotton said this inspired her to begin researching how other counties throughout the state are addressing this issue.
The Cottons attended an event in Goshen called “Loving Your Incarcerated Neighbor” where they learned about classes and programs being offered in Elkhart County.
Cotton was aware of the Jail Chemical Addiction Program (JCAP) being offered at Kosciusko County Jail for inmates with addiction issues.
“It has been beneficial in changing the mindset of our community,” Cotton said of JCAP. “Its success is proving the importance of preparing those who are incarcerated for their release.”
Cotton, however, wanted to implement an ongoing program that would be available to all inmates.
JCAP lasts 90-120 days, is offered to 12-15 men or women at a time and participants must be recommended and approved. JCAP inmates are housed in a specific block, separated from the general jail population.
LITE will offer classes similar to those being provided through the JCAP program; however, the LITE classes will be offered to the general population. LITE classes will include AA, NA, GED, parenting and other life skills classes as well as worship gatherings, Bible studies and book clubs.
The combination of both programs running at the same time will offer more resources to a larger number of people.
“Early last fall, we approached Sheriff (Kyle) Dukes about how we could help,” Tammy Cotton said. “We developed a steering committee and here we are.”
After coming up with a name for the program, a board of directors was formed. Board members include Ben Irvine, board president; Ann Haase, board vice-president; Chris Cotton, secretary-treasurer; Eric Lane; and Doug Lemon.
Earlier this month, the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office announced that Pathway Church Pastor Jarod Osborne had been appointed as the official Jail Chaplain of the Kosciusko County Jail and will help launch LITE.
Osborne assumed the position of Jail Chaplain effective Jan. 1, and according to a news release from the sheriff’s office, shares the vision of a team approach with Sheriff Dukes in that all Kosciusko County churches are invited to partner in this ministry.
“There are already some great programs happening in the jail, including JCAP and Bible studies,” said Osborne. “Our goal with the formation of LITE is to increase awareness, connect more volunteers and expand upon the momentum currently happening in the jail.”
According to Osborne, many inmates at Kosciusko County Jail desire more opportunities while incarcerated, specifically classes related to addiction recovery, parenting and spiritual growth.
“My role will be to start a few new ministry opportunities and encourage and support those that currently exist,” Osborne said. “I also spend time in the cell blocks weekly to talk and pray with inmates.”
Due to the large number of people incarcerated for drug addiction issues, the jail ministry will take a proactive role in providing programs to cultivate rehabilitation.
Cotton said several people who were part of the original steering committee are now on the program’s leadership teams. This includes Hope Beezley, Mike Beezley, Kirsten Pattengale, Bryan Lowe, Brightie Lowe and Shelby Legan.
“Others involved include volunteers with KCJM, who have continued to minister to the KCJ inmates, and of course, Sheriff Dukes, Jail Commander Shane Coney and Courtney Jenkins, JCAP coordinator,” Cotton said. “Our leadership teams, board of directors and volunteer base will need to grow as we add more to the ministry.”
The program will involve no tax dollars, Cotton said, and will run on donations and grants.
“The program is entirely based on volunteer involvement,” Tammy Cotton said. “We will depend a lot on the support of our churches in the county.”
“We intend to make a difference in our county by building relationships with inmates in Kosciusko County Jail through our volunteers, mentors, instructors and leaders,” Cotton said. “As we collaborate with other organizations and churches in our county, we plan to educate, minister to and provide resources for inmates who are interested in taking advantage of the opportunity.”
“Sixty-eight percent of those incarcerated in Indiana are re-arrested within three years of their release,” Tammy Cotton said. “In Kosciusko County, it’s a similar scenario. There are some critical barriers to successful re-entry — substance abuse, no place to live and acquiring a job as a felon, just to name a few.”
The intent of LITE is to ensure that an inmate will have a plan in place and someone they have developed a relationship with who can help them get to a job interview, find housing and healthcare, obtain a driver’s license and find counseling services, prior to being released.
LITE will also serve those who have been released, as well as their families.
The only way this can be accomplished, Cotton said, is by collaboration with other organizations and services in the county. Cotton said several organizations in the county have agreed to partner with the program.
“Everyone’s response has been the same,” Tammy Cotton said. “They’ve all said this is so exciting and so needed.”
The goal, according to Cotton, is to kick off classes and programs by April, 1. They are in the process of coordinating training, policies, procedures and curriculum.