‘Trying God’s way’: Crittenden County inmates choose to change through baptism

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CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. — People in jail have plenty of time to think about where they went wrong, but some in the Crittenden County Jail are taking it a step further to make a change.

Every six weeks at the jail, several inmates choose to take a dip of faith, making the decision to be baptized.

Their crimes are varied: fleeing in a stolen vehicle, aggravated assault, marijuana. But their action here is the same. They want to change.

“It’s time for a life change, because I have two boys at home counting on me and my mother in law, whom I love very much,” said 37-year-old inmate Erica Manning, in jail on drug charges.

Dominique Henderson remembers what he was told as a boy.

“When I was little my momma always said, ‘When you get tired, you will eventually try God.’ And that is what I am doing, trying God’s way,” henderson said.

Jail minister Kyle Perkins, who was baptized when he was in jail here in 2005, now baptizes them.

“My hope is to see them out on the streets, taking care of their kids, their grandkids, paying their bills, becoming a productive member of society,” Perkins said. “And to see them living for Jesus Christ.”

His wife Holly baptizes the women.

“A lot of times those women will be brought to tears when we start talking about their children. So they know they want to be a good mom.”

The Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department has offered this to inmates since the 1990s. The baptisms at the jail did stop for about nine months during the height of the pandemic, but recently resumed.

“It is definitely a celebration,” Lt. Bryan Hines said. “I saw several men crying today as they were waiting for their turn to be dipped. It meant a lot to me as a Christian.”

The inmates make the decision.

“I wanted a fresh start in Jesus. God. Just something new. A fresh path I haven’t walked yet,” inmate Freddie Hattenhauer said.

Hines gives them a word of encouragement.

“It’s a baby step, but it is a big step,” he said.

Most come up feeling changed.

“I feel happier about my future,” Hattenhauer said.

The hope is when these men and women get out of jail, they will remember what happened here and continue on a right path. And some of them have.

“I feel like sometime you gotta go to a bad place to get something good out of it,” Henderson said. “‘Cause I probably wouldn’t even did this at first. But I am thankful.” 

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