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Inmates at Oklahoma women's prison donate to chapel fund

Inmates and volunteers are trying to raise funds to build a chapel on the grounds of Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.
by Carla Hinton Published: November 23, 2012

/articleid/3731061/1/pictures/1891126">Photo - An inmate reads her Bible during a Bible study session at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
An inmate reads her Bible during a Bible study session at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Hargis, a Christian, said the new chapel would alleviate this issue, plus it would provide more classroom space, a library and an office for the prison's chaplain.

She and other inmates such as Tocquianna Culver and Nina Walker said the chapel would be a place of transformation for many inmates who need spiritual guidance to get their lives back on track.

“We all just decided to donate,” said Walker, 38. “Whatever income we go in, we tithed that to the chapel.”

Walker, a Christian, said many inmates began by giving a few dollars, but she noticed that the amounts are increasing every day.

“It's like they're hungry for the new chapel,” she said, noting that about 80 women can squeeze into the current classroom/Bible study room, but this often leads to overcrowding.

“We have to put people on a waiting list because we can't get any more people in here,” Walker said.

Culver, 48, of Oklahoma City, said she envisions herself attends Juma prayer, the obligatory Friday Islamic prayer services, in the new chapel classrooms because she is Muslim. She said the chapel will be a welcome addition to inmates of all faiths. Culver also said inmates will have better access to the chaplain because he will have a designated office.

“It benefits everyone,” she said.

“Religion, no matter what religion it is, plays a huge part in restoring people and families. It all beings with a spiritual base.”

Hargis agreed.

“It will affect people on the outside too because some people who get saved here, they witness to their families. It kind of has a ripple effect,” Hargis said.

Meanwhile, Travis and Brendle said more than 140 services are month are currently conducted at the prison. They said the prison accommodates roughly 1,100 female inmates in a minimum-, medium- and maximum-security setting.

Charles Freyder, of Bethany, a chaplain at the prison, said he came from a prison system in another state where designated chapel buildings were the norm.

“I saw the benefits of having a dedicated chapel for offenders,” he said.

Freyder, 51, said it helps that the proposed chapel, with its steeple, looks like a church “so that when these ladies attend a church service, they can feel like they are really attending a church.”

Also, he said the prison needs more classroom space and sound equipment and other items that constantly have to be transported for services and classes take a beating. Freyder said he predicts that services held in a chapel setting will encourage more spontaneous spiritual experiences.

“It's just the setting more than anything. When you're in an institution, you're in an institution. When you're in a chapel, you're in a chapel.”

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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