The Heart of Texas Foundation

Minutes of Key Players #1

November 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 


August 9, 2010
The Taste of Texas Restaurant

Grove Norwood opened the meeting by

introducing all the Key Players:

Rick Thaler, TDCJ Director of Correctional Institutions Division

Madeline Ortiz, TDCJ Director of Rehabilitation Programs

Brian Collier, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Deputy Executive Director

Brad Livingston, TDCJ Executive Director

John Whitmire, Chairman, Texas State Crimanl Justice Committee;
State Senator, Texas
Senator Whitmire thanked Dan Patrick, TDJC staff, and Warden Cain

Dan Patrick, State Senator, Texas
Senator Patrick thanked John Whitmire for being legislatively in charge of prisons. He wanted John on board for this prison initiative because “John makes things happen.” Change, he noted, begins with the first step. And the first step in this Bible College program was the trip to Angola. The meeting this morning was the second step.

Terry Bryan, College of Biblical Studies, Director of Operations.
Terry shared a story about his wife’s grandfather, whose funeral was held today. His father-in-law’s wishes were that Terry be here at this historical meeting rather than at the funeral.

Joe Davis, CFO, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention

Craig Blaising, PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Executive Vice President, Provost.
Dr. Blaising expressed his amazement after his visit to Angola and having observed
the effect the Bible College had made on that prison.

Denny Autrey, PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,
Dean, Houston Campus

Burl Cain, Senior Warden, Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Grove Norwood told a story of how Burl Cain lassoed an alligator gar.
Grove then handed him a framed photograph of a lasso.

The Meeting Begins

Warden Cain opened the discussion with the fact that this meeting to open a Bible College in Texas prisons was, in his words, “bigger than us. Louisiana got a free college with no tax dollars. It changed us all. As inmates became moral, we on the staff of the prison had to change our behaviors, as well. Moral people are different.”

Those who have graduated from the Bible College have become counselors to other inmates when the chaplain goes home for the night,” Warden Cain continued. The religious community bought into it. Because the Angola Bible College opened the door to all faiths, there were no suits brought by the ACLU.

The Warden stressed that it takes a total commitment. The security staff are what make the program flow. The staff has to be 100% committed. The program must be initiated and driven by the security side, not the Chaplaincy side. The Chaplaincy side will have a major role in providing support to the students and graduates, but Chaplaincy will not have the responsibility for making the program a success. That job will be security’s— i.e., the Warden’s.

Grove said “We’re making history for Southwestern Seminary, TDJC, and the Texas Senate.” He then handed out the “Life” DVD to all the Key Players. Grove also mentioned that another trip to Angola for TDJC Key Players will be scheduled. “We want TDJC to have that same ‘fire in the belly’ for this project.” He indicated that he would be taking additional delegations to Angola in October of this year.


  • WHERE THE COLLEGE WOULD BE LOCATED: Logistics and space for the college were of prime consideration. There had to be room for classrooms, a library, and a computer lab.

Dr. Blaising suggested that the Bible College be administered by their Houston Havard Extension campus off the Gulf Freeway, an extension college of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Darrington prison appeared to be logistically the best location because teachers lived nearby. He felt this unit was the most feasible for us in the beginning.

According to Brian Collier, there were 3 possibilities. The key factor was whether facilities could be shared or designated exclusively to the college. After some discussion, Darrington was chosen as the best fit for the first extension campus, Logistics and facility being the primary reason.

Dr. Blaising stated that Darrington was indeed the strongest location for a beginning college because they would have the staff living nearby. Staff would not have long driving trips to get to the prison.

The need for a computer lab was discussed, as well as the Theological library that must be in place at some point. Both would be dedicated spaces. Both must be approved by the Accrediting body, the SACS.

Warden Cain mentioned that the library at Angola is small, as is the computer room. He also stated that, at Angola, the students have no other jobs in the prison. They are students first. That is their only job. They receive special pay as students and attend class 8-4:30 five days a week.

Senator Whitmire felt that Darrington seemed to be the ideal place, a model for real impact in the state. He also felt that surplus modular buildings could be found in the state (possibly through the National Guard) if they were to be needed. Senator Patrick agreed that Darrington was at the top of the list.

Joe Davis suggested the possibility of having volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention build the modular units. Of course, if space at Darrington could be found, there would be no need for modular units.

The consensus was for Darrington unit to house the first Bible College. Senator Whitmire suggested that the ball was now in TDJC’s court as to whether that would work.

Dr. Autrey suggested that they would need a secure place for professors to hang their hats.

Senator Patrick summed up the fact that, for the modular buildings, we need to 1)raise money, 2) use inmate labor, or 3) utilize SW Baptist Convention labor.

Warden Cain suggested that SW Baptist could build the structures then donate them back to the prison.

Before going on to the rest of the meeting’s agenda, Dr. Blaising wanted to talk about the key players in the prison who would be involved in this project–chaplains, coordinators, etc.


Needed are start up costs for books, computers, etc.

Warden Cain emphasized that the warden and security staff of the prison had to be on board. The chaplain, he explained, was not as important for the actual execution of the Seminary program. The Bible College Director at Angola answers to the Warden, and does not answer to the chaplain. Someone from TDJC mentioned that if there was a problem with the program, the warden would be called, and Warden Cain said, “That is the most important thing said today.” The warden would be called. The priority and responsibility for the program lies primarily with the warden of the prison.

Warden Cain also insisted that the attitude at the top is crucial.

Senator Whitmire added that there had to be a personal commitment for the warden, and Grove said that Warden of Darrington would definitely be behind this. Also, Darrington’s a new assistant warden is behind the initiative. Donald Lacy is the chaplain at Darrington, and he, too, is behind this. It was suggested that the whole team needs to go to Angola to see how the program operates there. Grove said he would be sure that happened.

Joe Davis said there are 2200 churches involved with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Their funding comes through the “Cooperative Program.” All ministries are funded through this “Cooperative Program.” Additional requests can be made through the board. As of this date, they do not have funding set aside for this year or next year.

The questions was raised as to how much money would be needed, how long the funding would be required, the ongoing costs, and what monies would be needed for management of the system.

Via Skype, Dr. Jimmy Dukes, PhD, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Extension Campus Director, talked about the startup costs.
Library $35,000
Textbooks $30-50 each multiplied by the number of students
(at 5 classes/semester–probably need $8,000)
Computers for 40-60 students

We could try to keep the textbooks and use them over. Paper & pencils at Angola were given by the prison to the inmates. Fifteen computers would be needed, and the computers would have no modems and no internet capability.

Angola hires and pays the Bible College Director directly from the Prison budget (approx. $30,000, plus a stipend). In that way, the Director is answerable to the warden. This kept the director accountable to the prison and to the warden, and all the students know that the Director represents the Warden at all times.

Brad Livingston was not sure how that might work in Texas, but wanted to look more into how the Directorship should be structured.

Dr. Dukes further stated that there was no tuition at Angola, there was no income to the seminary at all. Nor was there a charge to the students.

Warden Cain felt that about $55,000 was sufficient to run the school for the year.

Dr. Blaising said that funding for the seminary would come through endowments, through the “Cooperative Program.” Rather than tuition, funding would all fall on scholarships. Professors would be paid as adjuncts. Ten courses per year at $55,000. 16-17 hours per semester; $55,0000 for teachers and textbooks. Each year, new textbooks would probably need to be provided for the students. Some could be reused for the new freshmen. A set of textbooks for 4 years would probably cost about $32,000.

Senator Patrick tallied the needs: 15 computers, library books, textbooks–$55,000; director–$30,000; teachers’ salaries, plus the cost of modular buildings. The figure for personnel and textbooks came to about $60,000.

Senator Patrick also stated that the key was in finding long-term commitment for funding, while Warden Cain believes that it would not be a problem to find the funding.

Both Senators Whitmire and Patrick stated that they would be willing to go to the Southern Baptist Convention to speak of this vision for the college.

Closing out this segment of the meeting, Dr. Blaising reiterated the funding costs: startup costs, ongoing costs, library, computer lab, buildings, and director’s salary.

3. The next topic on the Agenda was to answer How often do we as key players meet to further discuss the vision of a 4-year college in Texas prisons?

Grove stated that we have 12 months until the “ribbon cutting.”

Those from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said that meeting every three months would be best for them.

Representatives from TDCJ assured that they would continue to work together “offline.”

Monday, November 8 was set as the next meeting. 8 am at Taste of Texas.

Drs Blaising and Autrey would remain in process of developing the curriculum. There would be a 2-part curriculum–an Associates degree and a Baccalaureate degree.

Grove spoke of the importance of the accreditation process as a way to protect the program.

4. Next on the Agenda was to state what was to be accomplish between now and the November 8 meeting.

–Southern Baptists of Texas Convention would tackle the Budget.

–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary would handle the curriculum, the faculty, and the accreditation process. The plan to give an accreditation update at the next meeting. (Warden Cain posed the question as to whether accreditation could be in place before there was a building or a library. He said he thought there needed to be 6 months of accreditation in place before classes begin.)

–Texas Department of Criminal Justice will have a decision made on the college director. The will also have the location and space firmed up.

–It was agreed that all key players would like to make a trip to Angola. Warn Cain stated that any weekday in October would work. Grove will follow up on those trips and see that they happen.

Senator Whitmire asked Warden Cain “What was the #1 obstacle you were met with when establishing this college in Angola.” Warden Cain’s response was that “the officers and staff buying into it,” was the biggest problem. They had to be convinced that the students had to be at class on time, that they had to be allowed to be “students.” They had to be shown that this was not to be treated as a “ministry”, but rather that this was a TDCJ Program and needed their highest respect and buy-in.

Cain further stated that a culture change was started in Angola, and the inmate students had to be protected. But the students were put in the general population of the prison and Bible studies started almost immediately. At Angola, they wanted long-termers, not short-termers. After graduation, they sent the students to other prisons in teams of two. But they didn’t want to make the inmate students so “special” that they couldn’t be normal in the prison population.

He added that you have to let the prison staff pick the students via a selection committee. They will weed out the behavior problems. The warden should have the power of veto over any inmate being selected.

He stated that the college would lose about 15% of the students over the course of the college. Some would break the rules and be forced out. “It’s all about security and discipline.”

Dr Autrey added that an inmate could not be written up for an infraction for 9 months if they wished to attend the college.

Between January and May, the selection process will be set up and inmates will be selected for the college.

Senator Patrick stated that “this is a unique opportunity for Texas inmates.”

Senator Whitmire added that, “We will be training them to be ministers in the system.”

The selection process will look for the best long-termers.

Senator Patrick– “We want leaders in the inmate community.”

Bryan Collier of TDCJ said that they could work out a profile of perfect inmates for the program. And they could also transfer prisoners from other prisons in Texas, in need be.

Grove added, “We want them to want to come.”

Warden Cain said they allowed no more than 24% sex offenders in the college. There were only 4-5% Muslims. To date, about 25 Muslims have graduated from the Seminary at Angola. They even go out as missionaries to other prisons in Louisiana.

Chaplains, he said, had the biggest resistance to the program, because they thought they were going to be replaced.

Grove mentioned that Texas needed at least 3 Seminaries; a second up in east Texas, perhaps Coffield; and a Women’s Seminary in Gatesville, perhaps Murray Penitentiary, in the near future. “But we’ll take it one campus at a time,” he said, “and pray for funding as we go.”

Warden Cain also stated that Louisiana was starting a Bible College in a women’s prison.

August 2011–start 1st class

Meeting was adjourned, and lunch was served.

The official name for the college was also decided. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary–Darrington Extension Campus

TEXAS INMATES BIBLE COLLEGE (now formerly known as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary–Darrington Campus)

The meeting was adjourned after a wonderful lunch, served with the compliments of the Taste of Texas Restaurant, Edd and Nina Hendee, Owners.

Respectfully Submitted,

Susan Strickland
Historian, The Heart of Texas Foundation

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