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Inmate ministry helps to cut recidivism at Coffee jail
From left, Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell, Marilyn Howard and Charlie Graham address members of the Rotary Club of McMinnville on Thursday.
The paint was barely dry on Coffee County’s new 400-bed jail last year when government officials discovered a big problem: they would soon need to build even more incarceration space at a cost of millions.Vindicating the theory that says “if you build it they will come,” the inmate population exploded, pushing hard against the designed capacity of the facility. On the heels of spending $22 million for the main jail complex, county taxpayers were looking at paying another $8 to $10 million to build another 200 beds.“This was unacceptable,” Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell told The Rotary Club of McMinnville at its weekly luncheon Thursday.So instead of hiring architects and construction crews, government leaders teamed with churches and devout Christians in “praying through” to an alternative. The result was a prayer-energized gospel outreach to inmates with the aim of slowing the revolving door of recidivism, the dismal pattern of confinement, release, and return to jail.Citing a local recidivism rate of 81 percent, Cordell asked, “What better way to reduce it than to expose them to the gospel of Jesus Christ?”But after they have served their time, “They get out and where are they going to go?”

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