Don Cox went back to an Indiana prison last week, but this time as a volunteer.
At the state's Department of Correction re-entry facility near downtown Indianapolis, he offered a little sermon to the inmates on how to step away from a life of crime.
Soon to be released, the inmates paid attention to Cox because he spent 20 years in prison. In introducing Cox, Tim Streett told how he saw his father shot and killed in Oaklandon, Ind., in 1978 by men who demanded his wallet.
Years later, immersed in ministry to those in need, Streett realized he would have to discipline himself to forgive the men. How could he preach forgiveness to others and not practice it himself? One of the men he eventually forgave was Cox, the driver of the getaway car.
Streett visited him in prison, saw his true conversion to Christ and real repentance. Streett petitioned judicial officials to reduce Cox's sentence down from 90 years. Streett now runs the JIREH sports ministry in Indianapolis, providing nontraditional sports options to an inner-city neighborhood, including wrestling and gymnastics. (See "Where are they now?" by Marvin Olasky, July 31, 2010.)
At the prison, Cox told the inmates to shape up to avoid another stint behind bars: "Get any vocational skills you can. I've got four cars I am selling now. I bought them and fixed them up. I cut grass and I have 20 customers."
Cut off any thought of the old criminal lifestyle, he added: "Doing wrong is not an option."
Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Ed Buss was on hand to hear the Cox-Streett presentation and said he would like to see more of it, especially for younger offenders with shorter sentences. "He has credibility," Buss said. "He's been one of them. You are either going to continue to commit more crime or something will grab you. Maybe this message would grab some of these men."