Fresno jailhouse prayers offered to prevent future violence

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Jailhouse prayers are being offered to prevent gang violence in Fresno. New Beginning Ministry works outside the Fresno County Jail twice a month and late into the night.

The group's mission is to reach inmates before they fall back into the criminal cycle. But their message reaches far beyond inmates.

Words of prayer Friday were offered to a man visiting his son and daughter, both of which are locked up at the jail. "This is the perfect place for it," said New Beginning Ministry founder Michelle Zamora. "There's a lot of broken and hurting people."

They start with a snack, then offer a path to salvation. "We get very few that don't want prayer," Zamora said. "Sometimes they'll say no, and then they come right back and they do want it. I would say about 90 percent of people are receptive. They're broken and they know they need something."

Zamora initially began offering prayer and comfort to other mothers outside the jail. Her son was a meth addict years ago. The jail, she said, became his second home.

Eventually her husband, Lorenzo Zamora, joined the ministry. "You know, they walk out here all hard," he said. "But then I get to talking to them and they'll end up breaking down and telling me their whole life story, because I'll tell them too."

Lorenzo tells them about his conviction for manslaughter and weapons violation, and about his 17 years locked in a cell.

"If we don't catch them, like I said today, and take them where they need to go they're going to end up back in the same situation, back in here," Lorenzo said.

Paul Sanchez asked for prayer Friday. He's worried his cousin is locked up. "Just for them praying over me, gives me a piece of mind and if he's in here maybe it's the best place for him right now," Sanchez said.

While many may not look to a higher power, the Zamoras say they're looking for something.

One man admitted, following a prayer, he was at the jail to stab someone who was set to be released. He tossed his knife and accepted their help.
New Beginning Ministries tries to stop everyone walking into, out of and past the jail. They also direct people to resources in Fresno. All of the work is done with very few donations but a lot of gratitude.

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