ELKHART — The new chaplain at the Elkhart County Jail has plans to organize the various ministry programs and groups active at the facility.
“The jail has done a great job providing programming for inmates,” said Cory Martin. “The big thing the program has lacked is maybe a cohesive vision and direction.”
As chaplain, Martin oversees 23 assistant chaplains and volunteers who work with Elkhart County inmates.
He is evaluating the different church groups and volunteers coming to the jail and the studies they are teaching in order to organize them to function together.
This will allow them to more effectively “change and transform the hearts of our inmates so when they get out they can be productive members of society,” he said.
In his previous job as director of development at the Crossing Educational Center, Martin, an Elkhart County native, worked with students who had family members in prison or who had been in and out of prison themselves.
When a student who had been living with Martin and his family was sent to prison, Martin and his wife, Shannan, visited him in prison twice a week.
“Through knowing him we got to know someone else in the jail,” he said. “We started visiting this woman and corresponding with her and we realized that for a lot of inmates, we were the only contact they had with people on the outside.”
“They’re dying to have someone they can talk to that will talk with them, be friends with them and treat them like a normal person,” Martin said. “That realization that these people have nobody on the outside kind of gave us a flavor for ministry and a heart for this type of ministry.”
When the chaplain position opened up with the retirement of Mike Kupke in January, Martin applied for the job.
Rick Lambright, president of the Elkhart County Chaplaincy Board, said Martin was selected from a final group of six candidates and started work on Tuesday, June 4.
“Cory left what I believe was a more prestigious position because of his desire, his concern for the individual lives of people,” Lambright said. “He has such a heart for individuals. If he can impact or change one life, it will change the course of the community. He takes a life-by-life approach.”