IN THE NEWS
Bible College Participation and Prison Misconduct: A Preliminary Analysis
An In-Depth Study of the Louisiana State Penitentiary and Darrington Prison
The Darrington Unit resembles most other maximum security prisons around the country, except for the fact that it now offers a four-year seminary within the prison. On August 29, 2011, thirty-nine prisoners were formally installed as the first class of seminarians studying to become ministers under a new program that operates within the maximum security prison. The Darrington Bible College is an extension of the Ft. Worth-based Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is modeled after the Angola Bible College, a seminary based at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. These two privately funded seminaries represent fascinating correctional experiments. The Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion has received funding to test the proposition that these seminaries can transform the lives of prisoners as well as the prison culture itself. If found to be effective, the seminary model could be replicated in other prisons.
“Seminaries in maximum security prisons are designed to rehabilitate prisoners and transform the prison environment itself, we intend to test that proposition,”
states Byron R. Johnson, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s ISR and Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and principal investigator of the project.
Sung Joon Jang, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at Baylor and an ISR faculty fellow is the co-principal investigator on the study.
Jang states that social science research:
“is helping us understand that religious conversions can play an important role as a starting point in the process of long-term change and reform. Offenders who successfully straighten out their lives often experience a turning point or event that was pivotal in bringing them out of a criminal lifestyle. In short, research suggests offenders can and do change.”
The grant is funded by Premier FOTO, LLC, a subsidiary of Premier Designs, Inc. (founded by Andy and Joan Horner) and will be used to conduct five-year studies of the four-year seminary dubbed “the Darrington Bible College” (an extension of the Fort Worth-based Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) housed at the Darrington Unit in Rosharon, Texas; and a nondenominational program called Angola Bible College at Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly called Angola