Voluntary Faith-Based Programs Offer Residents a Chance to Grow, Help Others
Programs are key to helping residents in correctional facilities prepare for success after release. For some residents, faith-based programs are a top priority. At most MTC facilities, we have a full-time chaplain who coordinates these activities to meet the needs of a variety of faiths. But we can’t do it alone – volunteers also play a big role in this effort.
The value of an organized, faith-based program is very meaningful to some residents’ spiritual journey, providing them with a foundation for growth and stability.
“Faith-based programming, it makes a more moral people, less violence,” says Darrel Vannoy, warden of the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville, MS. “It gives them a sense of humanity. It helps them to cope better with their peers in here.”
Donald Jackson, warden of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian, adds, “A faith-based program is to ensure that everybody is on the same page. Religion or Christianity, it has nothing really to do with that as much, but it makes them work together in difficult moments. When they have issues, they know how to how to deal with them.”
At the East Mississippi facility, a Prison Fellowship faith-based program has been highly effective in helping participants develop skills and abilities they never knew they had.
“So, no, I never thought I would be a part of a ministry,” says program participant Donald Williams.
Men involved in the program live in the same pod and receive extensive ministerial training, along with daily instruction and encouragement. They then strengthen and uplift other residents who are looking for that type of support.
“I see that the people I’m working with are growing tremendously,” says resident Gene Langdon. “There’s a matter of fact three of them in here now that I’ve seen a lot of growth in them, and I’m really proud of them taking responsibility that they needed to become the person that they’re becoming.”
“I feel great about it,” adds Donald Williams. “Because it’s a good thing, you got guys that come in. It’s clean, it’s peaceful.”
In Part II of this story, we take a look at a successful faith-based program at the Wilkinson County facility. The impact of the Prison Fellowship Program at the East Mississippi is affecting all aspects of life.
“Because they do banking,” says Warden Jackson. “They do organization. They understand how to be a better husband, how to be a better father.”
“There are so many people in here in prison that they value their self-worth by their past,” Gene Langdon says. “But you can’t value yourself by your past. It’s your future you got to focus on. And I enjoy helping people realize that you cannot let your past define you.”