According to a 2010 census of the United States, close to 53,000 youth are living in facilities such as detention centers, residential treatment, adult prisons and jails and other justice centers. While this seems like a small number compared to the over 3 million people who currently live in the US, the fact remains that there are over fifty thousand children under the age of 18 who have faced criminal charges and are sentenced to live in a correctional facility.
To call this an epidemic would be an understatement.
Mississippi ranks third in the nation for the highest incarceration rate, with 624 people per every 100,000 behind bars somewhere. While our juvenile incarceration rate is the eighth lowest in the nation, many of our children grow up watching people they know and love go to jail. The example that is set for them is often tainted with blue flashing lights and handcuffs, so it isn’t any wonder that our youth often find themselves incarcerated in adulthood.
In His Steps continues to make an impact on this issue in the Canton community. With our Director, Reverend Bacon traveling to the local youth detention centers–Hinds, Rankin, and Yazoo Counties–to meet with the young men and women who are currently serving time there, we have been able to witness the Gospel working in places like this!
In late August, Reverend Bacon went to one of the area detention centers to meet with a small group of young men who had just been brought into the system for pre-trial. As he walked into the room, he was met with the faces of six youth staring back at him, waiting for what he would say. All of the young men were around 15 years old, many of them already jaded against the world.
Reverend Bacon knew 25 years ago when he began this ministry in the youth detention centers that this was a call placed on his heart by God, and “when God calls you, He prepares you,” he said, smiling. “I know He’s prepared me by giving me wisdom in knowing how to love them. When I walk into a room with a bunch of kids who are angry, hurt, and defensive towards everybody, I want them to know, ‘I’m here to encourage you.’”
The story he chose to share with the men was the one of Blind Bartimaeus found in Mark 10. Rev. Bacon showed them in the passage how Bartimaeus knew he had a problem–blindness, knew where he could find help for it–with Jesus, and knew he had to cry out to receive that help. This clear representation of salvation struck a chord with many of the young men listening, but what Reverend Bacon shared next drove home the message of Christ’s redemption even more.
“Even as Bartimaeus cried out for help, there was a cry of hindrance coming from the crowd following Jesus who tried to keep Bartimaeus from talking to Him,” Reverend Bacon told the boys. “We all have a spiritual blindness before we come to know Christ, and when we try to cry out to Him for salvation, there are going to be people who try to keep us down. But that doesn’t mean we stay down.”
When Reverend Bacon offered the call to salvation for the young men, four of them came forward and identified with Christ that day. It was truly a joyful moment in that meeting room as four more of God’s children decided to come home to the Father! It is because of stories like this that we at In His Steps wholeheartedly believe that the gospel is alive and working in the youth detention centers in the Jackson metro area. Will you pray and serve alongside us as we continue in the good race the Lord has set before us?