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Religion gives hope, renewed confidence to inmates, chaplains say

By Carole Mikita | Posted - Dec 19th, 2013 @ 8:22pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Chaplains for the Salt Lake County Jail share their experiences of bringing hope and Christmas cheer to inmates during the holiday season.

Fifty bible study classes are offered to inmates in the Salt Lake County Jail each week. Many volunteers come to help, but there are only two chaplains that minister to the prisoners.

Mary Challier has been a chaplain for several years, and inmates call her "Chaplain Mary" and said that she opens the door to the Bible and God.

"(It) gives me peace and understanding and I know I'm not alone," said inmate, Gina. "(I've) been lost a long time."

Some of the inmates are incarcerated for a few days, and others are in for years, but the chaplains said they can tell when they are reaching a person because their questions change.

"That's what you start to see and then from that point the depth of understanding of the person grows, and that's not us," Challier said. "That's not me and Ken — That's God."

Ken Stearn serves as the other chaplain at the Salt Lake County Jail and he said he understands where these people are coming from. As a young man, he spent a short time in jail.

"You brought Jesus to me in jail and I wanted to thank you," Stearn said. "And then I recognized Him and He gave me a big hug."

Stearn talked about some of the success he has seen with inmates.

"He had been a heroin addict," he said of one inmate. "He had been clean for three years. He was reunited with his wife and they were expecting their first baby."

"Everything you need to know is in the Bible and these classes that (the chaplains) provide are the only thing that really helps you get through jail," said inmate, Anique.

Both chaplains said they see the spirituality and teachings from their Bible studies give the inmates new confidence.

"The comfort that I take knowing that God knows who I am, Jesus knows who I am and is with me always," said inmate, Sandy.

The inmates receive no special meals or programs for the holiday season — just the religious teachings provided by the chaplains to help them find renewed faith for the new year.

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