Taking Back Our Neighborhood: Baptized behind bars

By Joe Birch - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Seventeen newly baptized teenagers celebrated Easter behind bars.

All 17 are under the age of 18 but charged as adults for serious crimes.

A three day revival inside C-Pod at Jail East brought 24 young men to God.  Seventeen were fully immersed in a portable baptistery.

Reverent Ernest Gillespie of Pearly Gates Missionary Baptist Church performed the baptisms.

"The Bible says in heaven they're shouting over one sinner who comes to Christ," Gillespie said.

A special section of Jail East now exclusively houses most of Shelby County's 51 young men under the age of 18 charged as adults.

Quintel, 16, was baptized after getting locked up with three others.  He is accused of first degree murder of University of Memphis sophomore TK Hancock at the Hollywood Library on November 11.

Quintel has become a young man full of prayer.

"I want to change from the inside, not the outside," Quintel said.  "I want people to see that I am trying to do better, so I change myself."

Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell said he wants to offer the young men a choice.

"We just want to give them an option," Luttrell said.  "Whether or not they choose to follow a faith course will ultimately be a decision between them and their Lord."

Luttrell said none of the prisoners are required to follow pathway to faith in general or Christianity in particular.  One young prisoner is a Muslim and has contact with a spiritual advisor.

Representatives of any faith an inmate professes are pursued by jail staff.

"Faith involvement teaches everything from discipline to self respect to respect for others to a belief in a system of values," Luttrell said.

Staff members said not all the young men believe in God but are shown love no matter what.  For many, this is the first time they have ever heard the Golden Rule:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"God?  So what, God?  That's how my mind was then," said Terrance.  "Now God is a big help, a real big help."

Some of these young men may face life in prison, but this Easter Sunday the baptized pray they'll have a new lease on life everlasting.

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