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Christ, Not Crime

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Columbus Dispatch (4/23/2012) — As Delbert Robinson emerged from the baptismal water, a huge smile erupted on his face. He thrust both arms in the air.

Cheers, applause and shouts of “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” broke out from 125 people in the audience.

“I felt good. I was happy,” Robinson, 37, said later. “ I’ve got five kids. I want to be a better family man, a better father.”

On a night of prayers by chaplain Tim Smith and music by the Rag Tag Worship Team, 19 men were baptized last week. Baptism is a Christian rite symbolizing “cleansing” a person’s sins, leaving him with a clean slate.

An abundance of tattoos, an unusually loud emphasis on singing the words My chains are gone, I’ve been set free and blue shirts with “DRC INMATE” written on them were the only giveaways that the baptismal service was behind prison walls at the Marion Correctional Institution.

Baptisms are not unheard of in prison.

Ohio prisons chief Gary C. Mohr called it a “great thing” and said he has no problem with church services taking place in state prisons.

“I’m a believer, on a couple levels, that this is the right thing to do,” he said. “I do not see an issue of separation of church and state. It’s absolutely voluntary and optional without any degree of coercion. We recognize there are multiple faiths in our prisons, and we need to support those.

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