As part of his drive to improve the quality of life in Baltimore, Rev. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple, led what he called a “Breaking Every Chain” demonstration around the Baltimore City Detention Center Oct. 27 before going inside the jail to pray for those incarcerated.

For several blocks on a brilliant Sunday afternoon hundreds of people, many of them members of the Empowerment Temple congregation, surrounded the jail, locking arms and praying to deter criminal behavior that results in jail terms and criminal prosecution and to send a message of encouragement to jail inmates.

“When the prisoners look outside the window, they will see that there is a group that is outside praying for them as well as to block another generation from coming in,” Bryant said. “We don’t want to see our sons and our nephews going to this place. We want this to be the last generation.”

The demonstration is part of an initiative begun in August by Bryant. He has focused on Black men, especially those who are incarcerated. According to the minister, the criminal justice system and ineffective education policies keep “our people in bondage.”

As people prayed, Bryant wandered through the crowd, stopping frequently to pray with the demonstrators.

He said his plan is to address the high incarceration rate in the city and to let the prisoners know that the church and the Black community haven’t forgotten them. “The American justice system needs to focus more on rehabilitation instead of incarceration,” he said.

“This says a whole lot about human connection , to know that they are not in isolation, but there is a community waiting for them and cheering for them,” he said.

Community activist and Maryland House of Delegate candidate Marvin “Doc” Cheatham told the {AFRO}: “I think this is tremendous, it will give folks a clear understanding as to what actually goes on here. Many of us have never been inside here and don’t know how many of our people are actually in here and it begins to connect us.”

“I’m encouraged, I think this is a great idea, we just have to make certain we educate our young people not to do things to bring them in here,” Cheatham said.

Bryant said he wants jail inmates to realize that “God has another plan for their lives.”

As community members locked arms, people held signs—in hopes that those behind the bars would see.

Bryant said, “After they served their debt to society, they ought to be able to come back and be fathers to their children, be able to provide for their families and still be outstanding citizens because they’ve paid their debt to society.” 

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Blair Adams

AFRO Staff Writer