Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Bible College in prison

Angola is a high security prison in Mississippi. It was notorious for its violence in the 1970s. Significant improvements have come about in the last 2 decades after a local seminary offered theological training.
In Mr. Cain’s view, the biggest change came in 1995 when, as he took over the prison and faced drastic cuts in school funds, he invited the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to open a seminary. To his surprise, he said, the eminent seminary agreed, covering the costs with outside donations.

“The Bible college was the game changer,” said Mr. Cain, 71, a portly man with granny glasses and a shock of white hair. “It changed the culture of the prison.”

Some other experts say the college is one of many factors, but the softening effect of religion on life here is evident.

Beyond the bachelor’s degrees, the college has granted hundreds more certificates or associate degrees, producing a cadre of men who lead churches, provide informal counseling in their dorms and take on what many describe as their hardest task — informing fellow inmates when a loved one on the outside has died. 
Candidates must have highschool qualification, which they can gain in prison, be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years, and have a record of good behaviour. The 4-year bachelor degree is rigorous and includes Greek and Hebrew. They have had 241 graduates so far. The seminary also offers a range of diplomas.

The cost is covered by the college, that is donations to the seminary; not government. This seems preferable and should allow the college to set course requirements as it would on its non-prison campus.

As to Warden Cain's comment about changing the culture of the prison: 2500 inmates attend church weekly.

The grace of God extends to the most wicked of men if they repent of their evil and follow him. May he continue to bless the men who have found forgiveness in jail and may many more at Angola and elsewhere turn to him.

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