Mississippi prisons to offer seminary program for incarcerated women

Published 11:15 am Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Mississippi Department of Corrections will begin a new seminary program for incarcerated women after launching a similar program for men over ten years ago.

MDOC officials say the “Experiencing God” discipleship course is designed to deepen inmates’ understanding of God and their faith. It is also a requirement for the seminary program within the prison.

The women who complete the discipline course will join other inmates in the 29-member inaugural women’s class in a four-year fully accredited seminary program taught through the Leavell College of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Starting Tuesday, Jan. 19, seminarians will receive training to become inmate religious assistants to assist chaplains.
Mississippi’s seminary for women is one of only three of its kind in the nation with the others in Louisiana and Georgia.

The seminary program is entirely privately funded with no taxpayer funds being used. In addition to the New Orleans school, support also comes from the Mississippi Baptist Convention through donations and fundraising efforts.

People of all faith denominations are welcome and invited to participate in the seminary program.

To participate, inmates must have at least 10 years remaining on their sentence, be free of rule violations for at least one year, and have completed high school or have a G.E.D. They also must have completed the “Experiencing God” course and be recommended by a chaplain or spiritual leader.

After two years in the program, the participants will have earned Associate’s Degrees, and, after four years, they will have earned Bachelor’s degrees.

Dr. Beth Masters, director of the program at CMCF, said the program is already making a difference in the women’s lives through the work completed.

“Examples of the change we have seen include women who have undergone restoration and reconciliation with their families through talking about their faith and what they have learned,” Masters stated.

The launching of the women’s seminary program was said to be a high priority for Commissioner Burl Cain, who helped with the establishment of the seminary program at the Mississippi State Penitentiary while leading Louisiana’s state prison.