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Warden welcomes community groups to help change prisoners’ lives for good
Effingham County Jail Staff
Effingham county prison staff with Warden Joe Scroggins second from left. (File photo.)

Special to the Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Glimmers of hope are finding their way past extremely tight security at Effingham County Prison.

Warden Joe Scroggins welcomes community groups who have programs or ministries that can help the 192 inmates under his control eventually lead a better life.
“These men made mistakes but I don’t hold that against them,” Scroggins said. “They are still people and one mistake shouldn’t define them. I want to help them because that’s what it is all about.
“I am open to anything that will be helpful,” Scroggins added.
The warden estimated that 60 percent of the prison’s inmates are 19 to 24 years old and grew up with little or no direction from adults. Many of them couldn’t tell the difference between a leaf blower and a weed trimmer when they arrived, he added.
A lot of the inmates lack spiritual awareness, too, but Scroggins invited Hal Jenkins of Springfield Oaks Church to provide weekly religious education, counseling, and worship services to inmates who want them.
“This is our 22nd week,” Jenkins said May 28 before leading a worship service that lasted just under an hour. “We’ve been averaging about 25 to 35 participants a week.”
When the inmates entered, they immediately embraced Jenkins or gave him a hearty handshake. They treated a couple visitors, including Effingham County District 5 Commissioner Phil Kieffer, likewise.
Kieffer is an ardent supporter of Jenkins’ effort. He is a member of a men’s prayer group that provides Bibles for every prison ministry participant.
Bibles have been distributed to 80 inmates so far, including 20 to participants who are no longer incarcerated.
After opening the worship service with a prayer, Jenkins turned the floor over to Mark Anderegg, who sang a spiritual tune while playing a guitar.
As soon as Anderegg strummed his last note, Jenkins told the inmates that they are important to him, the warden, and God. He cited Luke 5:12 and John 10:2 while explaining God’s willingness to serve everyone.
In Luke 5:12, Jesus didn’t look down on a leper who requested His help. Jesus healed him quickly without charge or prejudice.
“The orange shirt that you are wearing does not define who you are,” Jenkins said. “I know I tell you that all the time.”
John 10:2 is an analogy based on sheep and shepherds. Sheep pens of that era were constructed with high walls and one door, making it easier to control the animals. The comparison to the prison wasn’t lost on the inmates.
“It’s not as safe out there for you as it is in here,” Jenkins said in reference to the world outside the prison walls, which is filled with temptation and poor influences.
A former Navy SEAL, Jenkins urged the inmates to do something for God and become leaders.
“You are (in prison) to become a better man, not just go out and be an ex-con,” Jenkins said. “Be a leader. Followers will be back in here.
“Followers make excuses.”
In closing after a couple more Anderegg songs, Jenkins told the participants that he was proud of them and urged them to bring a friend to next week’s service.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes in (the participating inmates) since this started,” Scroggins said following the service. “It makes a difference when people show that they care about you.”