A new film was recently screened at Angola, a Louisiana State Penetentiary entitled A New Hope. Over 800 prisoners were able to watch it. It chronicles The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary which opened an extension center there in 1996 to provide an education and theological training to the inmates. The results speak for themselves.
"Since the NOBTS extension center opened in 1996, 147 former and current inmates have embraced a calling to the ministry and earned bachelor of arts in Christian ministry degrees. Currently, 120 inmates are enrolled, extension center director John Robson said.
The Bible college, as the Angola extension center also is called, has changed the prison's atmosphere. In 1995, Angola reported 1,016 violent incidents, including assaults, murders, suicides and escapes. In 2008, there were only 376 incidences of violence, mostly inmate-on-inmate assaults without weapons, according to prison records.
Angola's current population includes 70 NOBTS graduates. They lead congregations at the six interfaith chapels on the prison grounds, assist chaplains in ministry and, in a new program, serve as missionaries for three-month stints at other correctional facilities in the state. Currently, 28 incarcerated graduates are ministering in seven state correctional centers and the State Police Barracks, according to Angola communications officer Gary Young. "The Bible college here is a miracle story," said Robert Toney, a NAMB-endorsed chaplain who has served at Angola the past 10 years. "It has brought tremendous hope to the prison population. Inmates can graduate with a B.A. degree in religion, a legitimate degree. They can go to LSU or anywhere they want to go and build on that degree."
I think it's a wonderful thing what the Southern Baptists are doing in Angola and elsewhere. There are plans to expand the project to to other states as well. A considerable amount of inmates arent going anywhere, anytime real soon and they might as well help further the Kingdom while they are there if they feel the calling.