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Porter County Jail's 'God Pod' continues to help inmates; expanding to help women

Male inmates eat lunch at the Porter County Jail in Valparaiso during a visit by The Times in 2016.

VALPARAISO — Some 80 men have been part of the God Pod at the Porter County Jail since its inception nearly three years ago.

The program, officially called Biblical Life Principles, is run by Jay Birky, chaplain and program director at the county jail.

Background

Birky and Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds initiated the program in June 2014 after visiting a similar program in Michigan.

Inmates must apply for the program and, if accepted, live in the same jail pod as the other men in the God Pod.

They undergo an intensive program, including spending five days a week, five hours a day, in classes and Bible study. The classes range from conflict resolution to financial management.

Birky said the recidivism rate — the return of inmates to the jail after their release — is between 20 percent and 23 percent, nearly a third of the national average of 65 percent to 75 percent.

There are 10 inmates in the pod presently with a waiting list of seven or eight.

Recently Frontline Foundations, a faith-based addiction group, has begun providing services to the inmates in the pod, said Birky.

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The secret of the program, however, is that it doesn't end when inmates leave the jail after serving their time. A group of 15 area churches have combined efforts to help support the men.

"We're still developing the house down south. The after-care component is still strong. We've got a pretty good community with more people willing to help," he said. 

The churches and graduates of the program work to help others after leaving the jail by helping find housing and jobs as well as providing support and counseling for each other.

The program is funded through donations by the churches and other groups and individuals.

What's next

Within the next month, Birky said they plan on offering a God Pod-like program to female inmates in the jail.

Because there is a smaller population of women in the jail, they won't be able to group the women together in a single pod.

While it will operate differently, he said they hope to offer classes and programming two days a week initially and eventually expand it to five days a week.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.