Beyond the Badge: Behind the bars in Marshall County jail inspires a lot of artistic ability
MARSHALL COUNTY, Ind. --- ABC57’s Beyond the Badge series continues, heading back to the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department. This week, the team is going beyond the bars, where Michiana will meet a couple inmates and hear about a program making a huge difference in their lives.
Beyond the bars are stories you might not expect. The Marshall County jail has enough beds for 233 people. Within the jail are 11 different classes, all part of the Jail Chemical Addictions Program or JCAP.
Even behind the bars, there is a lot of artistic ability. Each Thursday, seven guys come together for the jail’s art program, ‘New Life Creations.’
“When we're in here painting it's, it's just so peaceful,” inmate Randy Crowley explained. “It’s like we're not even locked up, or in jail, we're just normal again and it's therapeutic, it really is.”
In 2020, Heartland Artists Gallery in Plymouth, teamed up with Marshall County jail, volunteering materials and time to teach classes to inmates.
The participants tell me the program has opened another door in their lives.
“It's just, it's a fantastic thing,” Director of Programs Joshua Pitts said. “I don't know how else to put it. It's really cool to see inmates get to interact with people from the outside and just see two humans, building a bond and a connection.”
Josh Pitts in in charge of running the programs at the jail and wanted to be a part of helping others make better decisions.
“It's really increased positive behavior because they know it's something that they can look forward to, but also something they can lose that their behavior is not okay,” Pitts explained.
Participants Randy Crowley, Joseph Ladd and Daniel Henderson said it’s an honor to be in New Life Creations because only a few people get the opportunity and it’s all based on really good behavior.
“The correctional setting alone doesn't just fix the problem,” Chief Jail Officer Beau Holcomb said.
Beau Holcomb’s been with the Marshall County Sherriff’s Department for 20 years. He’s the Chief Jail Officer and knows everything that goes on behind the bars. He said running a jail isn’t something just anybody can do.
“Once you start the job you realize how everything is a gray area, and it's a very dense job to be good at what you do,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said it’s the people that make the job so rewarding.
“I'm invested in this area,” he said. “It's my community, it's my town, it's my county. So that's why I have the most investment here.”
“If I was making bad decision after bad decision, I would need some kind of guidance on how and why you make bad decisions and how to correct those mistakes,” Holcomb said.
“Some guys that come to jail that made some pretty poor decisions, eventually they're going to be back in the community but now they have a good place they can go spend time doing positive things and feel comfortable doing it,” Pitts said.
For Randy, Joseph and Daniel, the art program is a creative outlet, helping to keep them focused on the right track.
“Everybody has artistic ability,” Randy Crowley said.
“I didn't know I had that talent until I was exposed to painting,” Joseph Ladd said. “It's just a relief for me. So I enjoyed every week, the conversation the tools they give us to, to better ourselves.”
Joseph said they get a chance to put their art on display, like at the Heartland Artists Gallery, or on their Facebook page, where they’ll even get requests for specific artwork.
“You can communicate with your family and kids through paintings through the community,” Ladd said. Just a blessing, I think, to know that people enjoy, enjoy your art.”
“It's turned into basically, self-funded, because people in the community come and buy the artwork now,” Pitts explained.
“It just feels good that knowing that you're gonna, I mean you're capable and appreciated from the community,” Ladd said.
“After I leave here, you know, I plan on getting a hold of the gallery,” Daniel Henderson said. "I feel like I'm going to continue doing art.”
Joseph and Randy agreed—art is something they also want to continue to pursue.
“People aren't bad people, they're just making bad choices, and by these programs, the people that’s making them bad choices are realizing that they have people and support out there and programs that can help them, and this jail is offering that,” Crowley said.
“They're worth putting time into,” Pitts said. “The men and women I meet here are capable of much better than this and when we treat people like they're capable, a lot of times they start acting like they're capable, and that's really what we're going for.”
If you’re interested in buying any art or just want to follow along with the program, you can visit their Facebook page, ‘New Life Creations’ here. You can also use their page to request specific artwork from anyone in the program.