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(Special to the American Press)

(Special to the American Press)

Angola prison ministry a 'gamechanger' for inmates

Last Modified: Friday, June 13, 2014 11:18 AM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

The 2,600-pound bell that hangs in the belfry of Tudy Chapel at Angola State Penitentiary was originally to hang over a church in Arkansas, Angola’s warden, Burl Cain, said.

When it fell while being installed and killed a congregant of the Arkansas church, it ended up sitting in a barn, Cain told a lunch crowd Thursday at First Baptist Church, where he was the guest speaker.

The inmates at Angola decided they wanted the bell to hang at their prison, he said, and raised $4,000 to purchase the bell, he said. The bell is a “killer” like many of the inmates, Cain said.

“The bell is important to them because it’s been forgiven, like them,” Cain said. “They want to be forgiven, too.”

Cain said the “gamechanger” in his prison’s shift from one of the most dangerous in the nation was the institution of a theological seminary at Angola in the 1990s.

“If we can teach them to have morals, then we can rehabilitate them to have morals and that way they’re not going to hurt you again,” Cain said. “If we teach them skills and trades and give them GEDs, but no morality, then we just made a smarter criminal.”

Cain, who has been warden since 1995, said the idea for a prison theological seminary was thought up by Rev. T.W. Terrell after the prison’s Pell grant funding was cut.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary began working with the prison and the four-year program was begun. Long a proponent of the Christian faith, Cain attributes the drop in Angola’s violence to the seminary.

“We realized we could change the culture from within,” Cain said.

Now, Cain said of the graduates, “They say they can preach the paint off the walls.”

The college has sent missionaries to other pirsons around the state and is a model for other prisons around the country, Cain said.

Cain spoke at the luncheon, although his grandson was killed just days earlier, he said.

Posted By: Blaine J. Gravel On: 6/16/2014

Title: Rev Blaine J. Gravel

As a volunteer clergy at the Rayburn Correctional Institute I have seen first hand the ministry conducted by graduates of the Seminary at Angola. Praise God for the HIs wisdom and for Warden Cain's "obedience" in allowing the formation of the seminary.

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