- Associated Press - Monday, October 9, 2017

ENID, Okla. (AP) - Another Oklahoma Department of Corrections prison soon will contain a chapel, thanks to the efforts of Enid native R. Joe Wilson and the organization he directs.

The Enid News reports that Wilson, director of Prison Chapel Inc. and domestic coordinator for World Mission Builders, recently finished an “old fashioned barn-raising” on Sept. 25 of a chapel at John Lilley Correctional Center, a minimum-security men’s prison in Boley.

JLCC’s chapel is the sixth to be built by World Mission Builder volunteers. Some of the other chapels are at Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Bill Johnson Correctional Center in Alva, Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy and Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.

Work on the JLCC Chapel is expected to be finished in January or February and once complete, the prison’s fence will be moved to incorporate the new chapel.

“It is prominently visible as one approaches the prison. The first thing a new arriving offender sees is the chapel. The message is, ‘You have hope on the way in and help on the way out,’” Wilson said.

The chapel was erected and dried-in in seven days, which is a new record for World Mission Builders. There were 35 World Mission Builder volunteers and about the same number of offenders helping, Wilson said. The steeple and baptistery also have been installed, and a retired contractor is volunteering to finish up the chapel, he said.

Volunteers came from 10 different states and Oklahoma, with donations coming in cash and in-kind goods and services from a number of individuals, churches and businesses. Wilson said they’ve raised $96,000 on a $100,000 goal.

Some of the donations came from Commercial Brick, which donated all of the brick, and a group of Texas men will lay them free of charge. A local cement company donated 50 yards of concrete, and a number of plumbers, electricians and painters donated their work.

The estimated value of the chapel is $500,000, but Wilson believes the actual cash outlay is less than $150,000.

One of Wilson’s most rewarding experiences building the chapels comes when he and others install the steeple on the chapel. JLCC’s steeple was the sixth one Wilson’s installed.

The chapel will include classrooms, a chaplain’s office, library, an auditorium with seating for 150, the steeple and the baptistery. Wilson expects about 30 to 40 faith-based and education programs to be offered each month in the new chapel.

Matthew Martin, public information officer for JLCC, said the additional space provided by the chapel will allow the prison to expand its programs for offenders.

“The building is going to bring more rooms for us to have more programs that we offer here at the facility to help put some of these offenders, when they get back onto the street, and to help with recidivism,” Martin said.

Wilson said one of the goals for building chapels is to increase programs for inmates.

“The goal is for every prison in the state of Oklahoma to have a stand-alone chapel dedicated to providing faith and educational-based programs,” Wilson said. “As a society, we need to do more than just warehouse offenders. We need to offer programs and skills training that transform offenders into law-abiding and tax paying citizens.”

Martin said the chapel will provide offenders more opportunity to change and improve before release.

“That’s what we’re looking at with this building is the opportunity to try and make a change in more inmates lives that we have here at John Lilly,” Martin said.

Wilson discussed Oklahoma having the highest incarceration rate for women, and one of the highest for men. He said there’s good curriculum in the system for prison ministry and an adequate number of trained ministry workers, but that there is a lack of dedicated space.

“By having that chapel that has a churchy feel to it … it really enhances, or a lot of the time they use the word turbocharges, the ministries that are in there,” Wilson said. “It’s more than religious, it’s educational also … as a result, lives are changed. Lives are rehabilitated.”


Information from: Enid News & Eagle, https://www.enidnews.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide