I have been involved with prison/jail ministry for the past 20 years and am executive director of Breaking Free Ministries, based here in Vancouver. Members of our organization served as jail volunteers with Clark County Jail Ministries as far back as I can remember. I have been a Vancouver resident since 1945.
A few years ago, this ministry was drastically curtailed by jail administration that only allowed ministers who had been placed on an inmate's visiting list (if the inmate even knew a minister's name). As a result, this ministry disbanded, leaving only a few to maintain the spiritual books in the jail library. Even with this spiritual counseling available (through the food flaps of the various pods), there were still occasional suicide attempts and a few even successful, however, these had never even approached the level being reported today.
The Dec. 17 Columbian story, "Inmate orientation video aims to prevent jail suicides," reports of new policies, costing the taxpayers $545,000, being implemented, including a suicide-prevention video. The cost of the Clark County Jail Ministries was a resounding zero. Only time will prove which is most effective. Readily available spiritual counseling during such a traumatic time is absolutely vital. Any added time and inconvenience to jail administration is definitely well-spent.
—Edward Parke, Vancouver