While the assaults on correctional officers at the North Branch Correctional Institute have been grabbing headlines in recent weeks, a new seminary program at the Western Maryland Correction Institution next door represents a positive outcome at the prison complex.
The seminary program unofficially began in April and will not be in full swing until later this year. But already about 100 inmates at WCI are enrolled. They are seeking either an associate degree in Christian studies or a bachelor degree in Christian leadership. Each study program also provides general education college level credits that can be transferred if an inmate chooses to pursue his education once he is released from prison.
One of the most striking early outcomes of the program is the “Do No Harm Promise” pledge that many of the inmates have signed. Although the Do No Harm provision is not an administrative decision of the program, it is being embraced and encouraged by the prison staff.
Essentially, inmates who sign the pledge are vowing to not harm anyone at WCI, whether inmate or employee, for the remainder of their incarceration.
Such a pledge is especially timely given the violence that has broken out in the NBCI facility next to WCI. Seeing inmates voluntarily promise to avoid violence is indeed heartening.
The seminary program is operated by Pilgrim Theological Seminary School. While the program is free of charge, Pilgrim is hoping for donations for churches and sponsors who are willing to provide money to keep the program operating. Some local churches already have made donations because they believe the seminary program will be beneficial to the prison population.
Those interested in learning more about Pilgrim Theological Seminary School or who are interested in making donations to the program can contact them through their website at http://pilgrimseminary.webs.com/degrees-programs or by calling 412-922-5300.
Nationally, Pilgrim has more than 1,500 incarcerated men and women enrolled in its education programs. We hope to see the Cresaptown effort grow to well beyond the 100 inmates who already are enrolled.