Prison Inmates Graduate To Become Ministers

A unique graduation is giving prison inmates a chance to change the lives of other inmates.

After four years of intense coursework, Shaun Crump is graduating.
“Probably the hardest most difficult accomplishment I have had in my life,” said Crump.

It's a feat he never thought he would accomplish.

“My mindset was I have a life sentence. This is my life now.”

Crump is serving time for murdering an 18 year old girl in 2004.

Each graduate is wearing their white prison uniform underneath their gown.
Each one serving at least 10 more years in prison which is a criteria for being accepted to the four year seminary program.

"These men are trained not for the free world to go back to the public but to other units and spend their time counseling and administering to other inmates that will get out. It is really working well, “said Texas Senator John Whitmire who helped bring this program to Texas 6 years ago after seeing positive results at a touch prison in Louisiana called Angola.

Once graduating, the inmates become prison field ministers and counsel other prisoners.
Crump says it's what he desperately needed. 

“I conformed to the prison image….I became very disgusting in my thoughts. I would kill somebody 20 times in my mind. For violence to follow that was common place,” said Crump.

In 2010, after serving 6 years in prison, he says a bible study inspired him to look further into the all mighty.

“I saw the love of God put into practice by men who came from the free world just to sit with us and love on us. Men that they didn't even know. I said that's what it looks like. That's what these men need. That's what I needed,” said Crump.

One year of good behavior at the prison brought him an opportunity to earn a degree from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Program at the Darrington Unit.

“This is my life. I am dedicated to prison ministry for the rest of my life,” said Crump.

Soon he will be planted in a penitentiary as a prison field minister.
Since the program launched at the unit in 2011, 63 offenders have graduated.
They are currently serving at facilities across the state as ministers. 

“The results have been impressive. We know for a fact, by talking to wardens where these men go and work, that it's changing the culture. Just the cursing, which is not a huge element of public safety, but it is an indicator,” said Whitmire. “They are humans and they are paying a huge price in penalty for their crime. Anything we can do to improve the environment of our prisons.

There's no cost to taxpayers- this program is funded through grants and donations.
According to inmates like Crump, the end result is priceless.

“I can never give that person whose life I took, their life back, but I can help other men find life. I can help these men change in here so when they get out, they don't make the same mistake I made, “ said Crump. This is not it. Even to make parole is not the end goal. The end goal is to be more like Christ. To be changed men.”