JACKSON – With heavy construction machinery already on site and standing on the edge of dirt work, stakeholders ceremoniously welcomed the construction of a chapel now underway at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF).
Commissioner Burl Cain was joined Friday by MDOC staff, supporters, and inmates who shoveled dirt toward the construction of a 6,400-square-foot interfaith chapel, which is expected to be completed in February 2023.
Construction of the chapel, which is not costing taxpayer dollars, is part of the Commissioner’s longstanding mission of supporting moral rehabilitation initiatives to help reduce recidivism.
“It’s a wonderful groundbreaking because the bulldozer and track hoe are here. This is reality. We don’t have to wonder if we’re going to get there, but we did and I really appreciate it,” Commissioner Cain said.
The chapel, which will be located near the facility’s 720 unit, will hold religious services for up to 300 inmates at a time. Nearly half of CMCF’s 3,300 inmates form various spiritual groups including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic, and Protestant.
“This is a component of moral rehabilitation which is essential to having practical and honest re-entry. You must have the moral component. We can teach people skills and trades, but if we’re not careful, we just make a smarter criminal,” Commissioner Cain said.
The new chapel at CMCF is the first construction of seven chapels planned at MDOC facilities, all funded through private donations. Officials expect to return to the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman to resume efforts toward a chapel there after a delay, and then move toward a chapel for South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Greene County.
David McNair, president of Mississippi Prison Chapel Foundation, Inc., said he was pleased to see the work already underway with the new chapel.
“I’m tickled to death. This is the first one actually being built in the prison system and it is on a beautiful spot,” McNair said. “This chapel will help tremendously with the women’s seminary here, just like we have at Parchman. This is just the first step in changing lives.”