Texas inmates enroll in prison-based seminary

August 29, 2011 3:15:52 AM PDT
Forty Texas prison inmates make up the state's first class of seminarians studying to become ministers under a new program operating totally behind prison walls.

The inmates all are serving lengthy sentences at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Darrington Unit in Brazoria County south of Houston. They're beginning Monday four years of training leading to a bachelor's degree in Biblical studies and eventual assignment to other Texas prisons where they'll minister to the spiritual needs of fellow inmates.

The nondenominational program is modeled after a similar project in Louisiana that's credited with reducing inmate violence by 70 percent since beginning in 1995. It's paid for with grants and private donations and not state money.

The prison seminary is an extension of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.