When Sheriff John Cottle tasked his Jail Commander, Captain Dave Curtis, to modernize and improve the county jail he did just that! Earlier this year, Captain Curtis implemented an Inmate Garden giving inmates an opportunity to learn new skills and lower food costs. With the first freeze this autumn, the garden has since been tilled and inmates returned indoors.
In September, Captain Curtis turned his focus on another purposeful endeavor and created a first of its kind in Lincoln County, an inmate choir. Approximately, 12 county inmates participate and they call themselves the “Second Chance Choir” and have memorized about eight songs. This past Sunday, they visited Zion United Methodist Church in Truxton and sang for the congregation and received a standing ovation.
The Second Chance Choir will sing at several public events during the holiday season. Meanwhile, they have been invited to sing at local churches and to attend services. “Our choir is constantly changing as inmates come and go,” said Sheriff Cottle. “Inmates call Captain Curtis after they have been released to inquire if they can return to the jail and continue with the choir. I find that to be amazing and it reflects on our commitment to rehabilitate offenders and gives inmates a sense of purpose.”
One of the goals of the program is to lower recidivism, or inmate reoffending rates by promoting self-pride, increasing self-esteem and worth. Inmates possessing little self-regard can lead to depression and they ultimately fall short of their potential in life.
Inmates are shackled and escorted by corrections officers to and from events. “Yes, they are offenders, however, they are stakeholders and will return to the community at some point,” said Cottle. “They sound great and allow citizens to see inmates in a different light.”
Inmates come together three or four times a week to practice and will be available through Christmas.
On Tuesday, October 29 a group of eight visitors were lucky enough to visit the Second Chance Choir at the Lincoln County Corrections Center. The choir, led by Jason Russell an inmate that grew up singing in church choir, warmed up through breathing and vocal exercises much like that of any traditional choir. Then the group opened with a warm and heart felt rendition of How Great Thou Art followed by Amazing Grace and a litany of Christmas Carols. The songs were enough to bring a few of those in attendance to tears. It was amazing to think that just a few weeks prior to this performance the Second Chance Choir was little more than a group of inmates with a desire to better themselves and a lack of musical knowledge. Now the group is made of strong singers who pride themselves on the accomplishments of the group.
After the performance the group attending was able to meet with the inmates in the choir and talk to them about the affect the Second Chance Choir had on them. The answers were all similar in that each of the inmates involved had found a new purpose through the choir. The inmates were happy to have a chance to give back to the community. The Second Chance Choir appears to be exactly that, a second chance for inmates to show their true nature and make a positive impact on their community.