Prisoners Working Together
Singing alongside congregation members, ten inmates from the Boonville Correctional Center worshipped at the Sunday morning service in Nelson Memorial United Methodist Church. The morning's service was also a graduation for the inmates, who completed a community service project with the Central Methodist Unviersity (CMU) baseball team this week.
"It sounded like a really good opportunity to come out, be around some Christian brothers, being in a good environment for a week, and plus to give back to the community," inmate Justin Mahaney said.
The CMU baseball team took shifts working this year's project sites at Harley Park and the Boonville YMCA.
"I'm ready to get in, get my hands dirty, and have some fun," CMU baseball player Austin Pogue said.
CMU assistant coach Bob Allen explained the reasoning behind the service project. "One of the things that we've been preaching all year is we've been talking about discipline and making correct choices. And these guys are seeing the impact that one bad choice can make," Allen said.
Although a learning and disciplinary experience, the inmates have enjoyed the project as well. "I met a lot of the guys that go to the facility out there, and made some friends and talked to the guys. It was pretty cool," Pogue said.
The inmates must apply and be in good standing at the prison to work on the project, which the church has sponsored for twelve years. Over the years, the group has done dozens of community service projects all over the area such as the wheelchair ramp project completed at the Boonville YMCA three years ago. By working in the community, inmates hope they can paint a different picture of themselves.
"There's a lot of prejudice against us in Boonville, being a prison community, but it really changes people's hearts and minds seeing us out here. So it makes a big difference to the people, the way they look at us, the way they treat us here in Boonville, which is good for our work release program and things like that," inmate Robert Brown said.
The project aims to further that goal as well. "You can see it's changed our congregation, it's changed our community, it changed a bunch of baseball players ideas of what an inmate is like. So they get the idea that they will be accepted, and there will be something very special for them when they get home," Prison Outreach Head Tom Maxwell said.
The National Organization of Prison Fellowship, which started in Atlanta, sponsored the project. The Boonville program is only one of two programs in Missouri.