Counseling those behind bars is a 'calling' for some - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Counseling those behind bars is a 'calling' for some

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Hundreds spent Monday night rallying in support of Georgia's only woman on death row, Kelly Gissendaner. Those who want her to live say she has made a change for the better and has even helped others.

She was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7 o'clock  at the state prison in Jackson, Georgia. But the execution is now on hold after issues were found with the execution drug.

Eighteen years ago she plotted with her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Kelly's husband to death in 1997. Owen pleaded guilty and he was sentenced to serve life in prison. 

Many jail and prison systems across the country offer the chance for inmates to further their education or seek counseling from an on-staff Chaplain. But there are those who devote their lives, volunteering their time to help those behind bars.

Stanley Bembry stands firm on the belief inmates are worth his time.

"It is possible to change behind bars," he says.

Bembry is president of a non-profit called Transformation Project.

"From our perspective, they're missing Jesus. And if we can get them to turn their life over to Jesus Christ, then a lot of the trouble that they get in to won't happen because they're focusing. They're changing their environment. They're changing their friends and that makes a difference in their lives," says Bembry.

For the past five years Bembry has been in and out of jail because he wants to, counseling inmates. He says he looks forward to every Monday morning.

"When I go to that small group I become a part of that group and those men are reaching out for help. I see the genuineness in those men that are reaching out," says Bembry.

Bembry did not want to address the fate of Kelly Gissendaner. But he can relate to the passion of others who are speaking out on her behalf. People around the world have started an online movement to stop her execution. Many are taking to Twitter with the hashtag, #kellyonmymind.

As for Bembry, he sees value in a life behind bars. Many of the men he counsels will get the chance to enter society again.

"There are some situations where people fake it. And that shows up later on, if they are allowed to come out, they end up being back in jail," he says.

But he says even if someone will never see the outside world again, they can make an impact on other inmates.

"Some of them will go to prison. But in that prison they can minister there and make an impact on people's lives. So we're concerned more with their future more than their present situation."

Bembry says the proof is in the numbers. Over the past five years, for those who have completed the Transformation Project and re-enter society, 75 percent of them do not re-offend and stay out of trouble with the law. 
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