Layman helps inmates find peace
----- Original Message ----- 
From: Taoss - Sherry Swiney 
To: PATRICK Crusade 
Sent: Sunday, August 24, 2003 1:41 AM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] Re: Layman helps inmates find peace

The article below says: <<"People need to know that about 95 percent of those in prison today eventually will get out," he said. "What we're trying to do is help inmates become productive citizens once they are released.">>  
We all have different ways of working toward the exact same goal.  When inmates are released and become
productive citizens, instead of going back to where they were before they were arrested - as a productive citizen, the redividism rates will fall drastically.  If anyone does the math, they will see that Less recidivism means Fewer victims of crime.
Sherry Swiney 
----- Original Message ----- 
To: ; ; ; 
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 10:25 AM
Subject: Layman helps inmates find peace 

Layman helps inmates find peace AL BENN'S ALABAMA 
Layman helps inmates find peace 

DEMOPOLIS -- Just before Tommy Fortenberry took his last breath, he held up one hand and flashed a sign of love to a Marengo County man who has been helping killers prepare to meet their maker. 

For Ben Sherrod, it's been a mission of love -- one he plans to pursue as long as he's able to hop into his truck and head for Holman Prison's death row. 

He'll be in Etowah County today to help officiate at the funeral for Fortenberry, who was executed last Thursday for killing four people at an Attalla gas station in 1984. 

Ben Sherrod of Demopolis has spent the past few years ministering to death row inmates. 
-- Al Benn, Special to the Advertiser 

"I'm not sure just what I'll say, but I told Tommy I'd make up some lies for him," Sherrod said with a smile. "I'm confident he accepted the Lord before he died. He told me he had 19 years to prepare." 

Sherrod said he was with Fortenberry much of the day and did not leave until a few minutes before the condemned man was placed on a gurney and wheeled into the execution room for a lethal injection. Fortenberry's spiritual adviser, he was one of two witnesses invited by the condemned man. 

Why would the former Demopolis councilman and well-known businessman drive thousands of miles a year to minister to the needs of men sentenced to die or spend the rest of their lives in prison without hope of parole? 

He said during an interview Tuesday at Trinity Episcopal Church that he hadn't always walked a straight-and-narrow path himself. He said he never went to jail, but "saw the light" several years ago and concluded that he needed to devote himself to those who had taken lives, some of whom were waiting to lose theirs. 

"I think very few people discover what God really wants them to do with their lives," he said. "I believe I've been given a gift and that is to do what I've been doing these past few years." 

Sherrod is part of the Kairos Prison Ministry, which addresses the spiritual needs of those behind bars. He believes it's a calling that few receive during their lifetimes. 

He refuses to debate the pros and cons of capital punishment, preferring to concentrate on doing what he can to prepare men for their impending deaths. 

Fortenberry was the fourth man he's watched die during the past six years. The first was Billy Wayne Waldrop, who was electrocuted in 1997. Steven Thompson was next the following year, followed by David Ray Duren in 2000. 

When he's not attending executions in Holman Prison, Sherrod drives to Jefferson County to meet with inmates at the Donaldson Correctional Facility. 

Sherrod, 66, and others involved in the Kairos Ministry meet regularly with inmates at Donaldson. He said the first time he went there, he watched as 24 killers walked into a large room to discuss issues related to why they were there. 

"Tommy (Fortenberry) was the first one to walk out," Sherrod said. "My message to them that day was that God loved them and would forgive them if they truly understood that. I think we've been able to get that message across to many of them." 

He said some of the condemned men feel what they have done "is so horrible that God couldn't possibly forgive them." He said it's his mission to convince them that they can be forgiven. 

Sherrod said he also has empathy for the relatives of victims murdered by men like Fortenberry. He said he often thinks of their pain, especially after the court order is carried out. 

For those who are about to be executed, Sherrod said, "the punishment is not in dying, but the hell they've been through for so many years." 

A lay leader at Trinity Episcopal Church, Sherrod sees himself as an instrument of God -- one who is acting on behalf of a higher power for the good of everyone involved. 

He said he doesn't consider himself a "bleeding heart liberal." 

"People need to know that about 95 percent of those in prison today eventually will get out," he said. "What we're trying to do is help inmates become productive citizens once they are released."