State Prison Hosts Chapel Ground Breaking

Inmates at the state prison in Leakesville will soon have a new place to worship and continue their education.

Religious leaders and prison officials hosted a ground breaking Monday for a new chapel at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution.

Along with a sanctuary, the new facility will include classrooms for a prison literacy program.

"Carry your candle, run to the darkness."

The state prison band, "Southern Spirit", sang praises to help kick off the ground breaking celebration.

A new chapel will help enhance their faith and their future.

"We're excited and filled with anticipation as this house begins to be built for your glory. It will be a beacon light on this prison compound," a volunteer prayed during the ceremony.

Since this prison opened in 1989, inmates have held worship services in the gymnasium.

Corrections commissioner, Robert L. Johnson, says he's often asked if a church inside the walls of a prison can really help.

"My answer is that a church anywhere helps anyone. Anyone who is genuinely willing to ask for forgiveness and receive salvation."

Prisoners like James Snow can attest to the significance of their faith. Life behind barbed wire fences is seldom easy. An inmate's faith can carry the promise of hope for the future.

"It's meant everything to me. If it wasn't for having God in my life and knowing that when I rely on Him, everything will be all right, I don't know that I'd have hope to have a future when I get out of here," said Snow.

The prison chaplain says the ministry is often essential to the rehabilitation of a prisoner.

Sister Kathleen Spurlin helps the inmates find faith in the Lord and in their futures.

"There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us, that it behooves each of us to find the good in each other," said Sister Kathleen.

The new facilities should be finished in about a year. All of the roughly 300 thousand dollar cost has come from business and individual donations.

There are more than 21 hundred inmates at the state prison in Leakesville. Although the new chapel building is paid for, fund raisers are ongoing to help furnish the facility.

By Steve Phillips