Prisoner program aims to change lives behind bars

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Prisoners are starting seminary school behind bars in Texas. Lauren Lea reports

In one of the toughest prisons in Texas with some of the most hardened criminals, a program is changing even the hardest hearts.

"I don't like to see other people throw away their life," said Roberto Avila.

He's one of 142 students of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary inside the Darrington Unit in Rosharon. They're choosing to find their faith instead of leading a life of crime.

"I've been incarcerated for 18 years for a murder out of Harris County, Texas," Roy Shelling said.

"I was 16 years old when I came to prison. I was convicted in 2002 of capital murder and I've been serving a life sentence ever since," Avila said.

Both men have been sentenced to spend life in prison, but they're now trying to change others' lives.

"Since I've been in prison, I've been doing a lot of negative stuff and I got to a point where I got real lost and another believer reached out to me and told me you're going about the wrong way," Avila said.

The prison hosted the 6th Convocation for the four-year-program on Monday. Graduates transfer from Darrington to minister at prisons across the state.

"We found this program at the Angola Unit in Louisiana. It's nearly changed the environment of that prison," Sen. John Whitmire explained.

Their journey is just getting started, but their ministry is already beginning with other inmates on the cell block.

"That's what life is all about, being able to help another person become a better person," Shelling said.

Sixty-six inmates have graduated from this program in two years. The goal is to have this ministering program in prisons across the state.

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