CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Men and women sit together and reflect for a few quiet moments.
Then one by one, they choose a new path.
“I baptize you my sister in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen,” Rob Mills of Cross Pointe Church of the Nazarene and Jerimy Ford of Passion Community Church immerse them in water.
These individuals are choosing to be baptized behind bars as part of the Heroin Addiction Recovery Program, called HARP.
“I gave my life so much to the streets,” says Parris Mines. “So this opportunity to get baptized is like the new me.”
Adds Kristin Hayes, “I’ve been fighting the disease of addiction for 16 years, and I’ve always been looking for that one thing that’s been missing. Today I came back seeking forgiveness, and I feel like I’ve been accepted. And I’m excited to start my new journey.”
Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard brought HARP to the jail three years ago for men and two years ago for women.
“He’s given us all a second chance,” states Allen Keeton. “And I’m at a loss for words, really.”
HARP includes religious guidance, including baptism, for participants who want it.
“It helps them cope with what they will face when they leave here, so this is a big portion of it,” explains Major Jim Pritchett with the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office.
HARP also offers life skills for the inmates’ fight to stay clean.
“I’m definitely changing,” says Roy Desper following his baptism. “This is truly a blessing. I’m full of joy.”
Today 54 women and men were baptized as part of the HARP ceremony.