Mississippi Department of Corrections starts women’s seminary program

PEARL, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Department of Corrections has launched a seminary program for incarcerated women, more than 10 years after beginning its seminary for men.

Inmates in the 29-member inaugural women’s class will be enrolled in a four-year accredited seminary program taught through the Leavell College of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Participants will earn their associate’s degrees and later, bachelor’s degrees. After completing the program, graduates will not be ordained; they will be “inmate religious assistants,” and assist with baptisms, funerals and worship services in prison.

They will also conduct Bible studies and assist volunteer religious faith groups. Future plans include starting a hospice program for the inmates, according to an MDOC press release.

Mississippi’s seminary for women is one of only three of its kind in the nation with the others in Louisiana and Georgia. It is the same program as the one that started for the men at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman in 2009, the second of five programs in prisons across the nation.

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. A new class of inmates will be ushered into the program every two years.

Launching the women’s seminary program has been a goal for Commissioner Burl Cain, who took the reins of the agency last year. Cain helped establish the seminary program at the Mississippi State Penitentiary while leading Louisiana’s state prison.

The seminary program is entirely privately funded.

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