For more information about the free Reformers Unanimous program, call Faith Baptist Church at (706) 216-9920 or Harvest Baptist Church at (706) 265-1526 or visit www.reformu.com.
Over the past 23 years, Sheriff Billy Carlisle has watched the number of inmates rise at the detention center.
The head count at the jail grows with the outside population, Carlisle said, but sometimes he sees a different dynamic at work in the numbers.
“When you look at your repeat offenders, there’s so many of them. That tells you something’s not working,” Carlisle said.
“We’ve got to do something to turn these people’s lives around. Get them out of that rut they’re in.”
Carlisle believes a new Bible-based program at the jail has the ability to break the cycle of criminal behavior sometimes caused by addiction.
Beginning Friday, inmates will have the opportunity to join a weekly class taught by evangelist John Dowdy.
Dowdy touts the program’s success at the detention center in Lumpkin County, where for the last 10 months he’s watched prisoners “give their hearts to Jesus ... and break the chains of addiction.”
The strength of Reformers Unanimous, Dowdy said, lies in its approach.
“Number one, you’ve got to reprogram their mind,” he said. “But you can never reprogram someone’s mind if you can’t touch their heart. You touch their heart with the old-fashioned gospel of the Bible.”
Reformers Unanimous is an addiction recovery program started in 1996 by a native of Loves Park, Ill. According to its Web site, the program “uses a unique spiritual approach to develop lifelong sobriety.”
Dowdy said sobriety starts when an addict decides to get help.
“Once they get going on this, and they get started on the gospel, they realize they can live free,” he said.
It’s a familiar realization for Dowdy. He had his own battles with addiction years ago.
“One day, I looked around and said: ‘Man, I turned out to be everything I never wanted to be,’” he said. “Then, I heard an old-fashioned preacher take an old-fashioned Bible and tell me about a savior named Jesus.”
He took classes to become an evangelist and Reformers Unanimous teacher.
Dowdy believes in the program because “it relies on the power of Christ, not the power of man.”
Carlisle said the cycle of addiction often is perpetuated by forces pulling at people from the other side.
“When you talk to some of these people who are addicted, I’ve heard them say it’s like the devil’s got a hold of them and won’t turn loose,” Carlisle said.
“There’s nobody out there to help them, and that’s where I’m seeing this program working. It’s changing their whole life, changing their mind-set and getting them going in a new direction.”
At the detention center, the class will be taught to those who volunteer.
Inmates aren’t the only ones who can take part in the program. Dowdy urged all who feel they have an addiction to attend meetings.
Local churches involved with Reformers Unanimous include Faith Baptist and Harvest Baptist.
In programs taught in Lumpkin County, Dowdy said inmates making the transition from jail often will continue attending Reformers Unanimous meetings on the outside.