The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

September 2, 2013

Wilson to build 5th prison chapel

ENID, Okla. — Joe Wilson, a retired Enid pastor, likes to build chapels in the state’s prisons because he believes they help rehabilitate those incarcerated.

They must be helping, because since the first two — at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft in 2009 and Bill Johnson in Alva in 2010 — there have been 845 confessions of faith and baptisms. In addition to evangelism, there are scores of discipleship, teaching and educational programs every week, Wilson said.

He is continuing in his quest and plans to build a fifth chapel at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.

“The ladies in Mabel Bassett have taken up a collection and raised $5,000. That is a real sacrifice for them — they are paid $11.61 a month by the state,” Wilson said.

The barn-raising dates for the new chapel are Sept. 16-27. During that time, the building will be framed up and insulated, and the roof, windows, plumbing, electrical heating and air will be installed. Plus, the building will be prepared for inspection for sheet rock.

Wilson said there will be 50 volunteers from six states, plus 30 volunteers from across the area. Three meals a day will be furnished by area churches and individuals.

The challenge is to build a chapel for the female offenders at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. All female offenders are processed through Mabel Bassett after being sentenced and transferred from county jails, he said.

Two additional chapels have been completed and will be dedicated and put into service at Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy. One chapel was built on the outside of the wall for trustees, and a second one was built for medium-security offenders who are incarcerated there.

The Mabel Bassett chapel is being built with donated goods and services including architectural services, engineering, dirt pad, rebar, concrete, plumbing and electrical work, utilities, doors and frames, windows and pew. Wilson said the group still needs the use of a large forklift, roof labor and materials, heating and air equipment and labor, sprinkler system, brick and brick layers.

The budget for the project is $500,000. They need $300,000 in cash and another $200,000 on donated goods and services. They still are about $100,000 short of cash, Wilson said. They have received a matching challenge grant from an anonymous source of $50,000, which means any investment will be matched dollar for dollar.

“We are challenging 40 churches, individuals and/or businesses to make a commitment to invest $7,500. Each investor of $7,500 will receive a 16-inch-by-20-inch plaque,” Wilson said.

Wilson said in addition to evangelism, lots of discipleship and educational meetings are held at Mabel Bassett. A program called Mommy and Me has become very popular, as has a group called Christians Against Substance Abuse.

“That’s the missing link,” Wilson said. “We’ve discovered a lot of good curriculum being developed for ministering to incarcerated people, and many people are adequately prepared and willing to go into the prison. What we don’t have is dedicated space.”

A few years ago, the state encountered a budget shortfall and many cuts were made to state budgets. At the same time, the state continued its toughness on crime, he said, but while prison populations grew, their budgets dwindled. Programs to rehabilitate were eliminated because of the budget crunch. Available space was utilized for housing.

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