Jail ministry reaches out to inmates’ children

Jail ministry reaches out to inmates’ children

A new ministry at the Boyle County Detention Center in Danville, Kentucky, is aimed not at those who are incarcerated, but at their children — the ones who often suffer most when parents are behind bars.

“The children are paying for their parents’ addictions. It’s a horrible, horrible cost. We want to put some joy in the lives of these children,” said Tom Grugel, chaplain at the center and member at Calvary Baptist Church, Danville, Kentucky. “Ironically, jail might be the one place (these) children can come and act like children.”

Opening soon, in a barely used hallway off from the lobby and away from the main doors, near where chairs and video call screens line the wall, will be what Grugel calls the “Children’s Corner.” It will be a kid-friendly space with furniture, toys and more for the kids to occupy themselves while their parents are busy.

Grugel said the idea came to him one day while he was at the jail.

“I came out (in the lobby) and there was this group of children, some sitting in the chairs staring at the bathroom wall, others in the floor. It broke my heart,” he said.

Grugel had to step into another room because he had begun crying, he said.

“You have to be careful what you ask for — I pray for the heart of Jesus on a daily basis and to see through His eyes,” he said.

Grugel said he began speaking with the deputies in the facility, along with jailer Barry Harmon and deputy jailer Brian Wofford, trying to come up with something to do for the kids.

That’s when they came up with the idea of turning an unused hallway off from the lobby area into a space for the children. He began speaking with churches in the area, seeking donations of toys, time and money.

“I’m excited to see what the Lord is going to do with this,” Grugel said. Several churches have agreed to help, some by painting murals on the wall, he said.

Grugel has used some of his budget to purchase a television for the area, which will remain on a child-friendly station, and there are plans being made for carpeting for the floor.

“I can see it,” Grugel said, getting teary-eyed as he stared down the hallway.

But they need more donations, he said. They are seeking child-size furniture for the area. If they get more than can be used at one time, that’s good — extras can be stored and swapped out as pieces get used, he said.

A consistent request will be for coloring books, crayons and gently used stuffed animals and other toys, especially items that are friendly for younger children.

The group organizing the effort worked with an area church and other ministries to secure drop-off locations for items, then promoted the locations and items needed.

Grugel said he wants plenty of items so children can take their new friends home with them if they want. He said storage is not going to be a problem — he has storage at the facility and another space has been given to him to use. “I knew with the outpouring, we would need the space. … God will fill it,” he said.

Grugel said he believes this is a ministry everyone can get behind because it’s for the children. He has reached out to churches, but said it’s not a church-specific effort, and he welcomes the community support.

“I just can’t wait to see the end result,” Grugel said.

Getting involved

There will be volunteers coming in to clean the items on a regular basis as well. The deputies at the facility also plan to get involved, he said.

“We have the best staff on the planet. I know from being on the inside and the outside,” he said. “They really care.” This space is just another example of that, Grugel said.

“We want to foster a better relationship. … We want to show these men and women that our deputies aren’t here just to house them as criminals; we’re here to help them change their lives,” he said. “We want to extend that to the children.” (Reprinted with permission)

Kendra Peek, Danville (Ky.) Advocate-Messenger