A familiar face has been visiting the detainees and staff of Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center for more than 20 years, spreading light, hope and guidance to those within the jail’s concrete walls.
Chaplain Carnell Johnson, minister at Right Direction Church International on Broad River Road in Columbia, has been volunteering his time at the detention center for the past two decades, offering Bible studies, group prayer and an open ear to the men and women who are incarcerated there. His efforts have been recently recognized and lauded by the South Carolina Jail Administrators Association, which named him 2015 Correctional Volunteer of the Year.
“Chaplain Johnson has served the staff and detainees at the Alvin S Glenn Detention Center for 20 years,” said Kathy Harrell, assistant director of Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. “He has generously given his time to share his love for Christ and to help those who are in need.”
Several days a week, Johnson totes a dolly full of Bibles and religious literature throughout Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, responding to the request forms submitted by detainees. He holds spirited Bible studies in small gathering rooms where detainees pile in to participate in song and prayer and to hear Johnson discuss life stories and real-world situations about self-betterment and transformation.
“I try to take the time to talk with them, to help ease their minds,” Johnson said. “A lot of these people, they just need someone to listen to them.”
Johnson first started volunteering his time with children within the Department of Juvenile Justice, then began visiting the jail. In addition to offering prayer and guidance to detainees, he also helps them cope with the news that a family member has passed away.
“That can be really hard to hear, a really hard blow,” Johnson said. “It makes you angry to learn that someone in your family has passed away while you’re in here. I try to console them, to listen and to get them in the right frame of mind.”
Whether they’re born-and-raised church-goers or have never attended a church service before, detainees are able to connect with Johnson’s messages of self-improvement through the relatable, life stories he tells, he said.
Seeing that his presence has been a positive influence for detainees, Johnson hopes to continue his volunteer service at Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center for years to come.
“I’ve always had a passion for trying to help people with troubled minds,” he said.