Donated chapel opens inside Muskegon prison

Posted at 8:26 PM, May 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-25 00:22:51-04

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. -- A new chapel has opened on the grounds of the Earnest C. Brooks Correction Facility in Muskegon.

The new building was funded by private dollars and is aimed at helping inmates morally re-adjust before being released back into society.

According to the non-profit organization, Prison Fellowship, two out of three people released from prison will end up going back.

"We know from the data that if any individual has spiritual development behind bars, that they have a faith encounter and faith growth, that they are less likely to commit another crime and go back to prison," said Jim Liske.

President and CEO Jim Liske said that the new Holy Ground All Faith Chapel will help create a sense of belonging for inmates.

"Most individuals across our country, they got involved in criminal enterprise or a gang, they did so because they wanted community. We are created for community. We are created to want relationships and to feel safe and secure," said Liske.

The new facility can hold up to 150 inmates at a time, not only offering worship, but also classrooms. Liske said that it took a few hundred thousand dollars to construct, all funds donated by private dollars.

"In a place like western Michigan, families tend to keep that private because there is still a fair amount of shame connected to incarceration. So, these are families that not only have the passion and abilities to wright large checks, but incarceration has affected their family," said Liske.

Liske said that when west Michigan inmates are released from prison, the reality they face while attempting to integrate back into society isn't always in their favor.

"I don't have a place to live, and I now have this thing called felony on my record. The vast majority of businesses I apply at will have a sentence that says have you been convicted of a felony in a little box, and I check the box. When that goes to HR, human resources, my application gets thrown out of the pile," said Liske.

Liske hopes the new chapel will serve as a place an inmate can call their own. A sort of sanctuary where they can re-evaluate their self value, and how they treat others. That is something that Liske said could make the prison safer in its entirety.

"If you start changing the most dangerous people in prison, you change the prison culture. You also have to remember there are men and women who go into prisons everyday called corrections officers, and safety for them is the difference whether or not they are going to come home at night," said Liske.

Liske also said that the warden of Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, Mary Berghuis has been very supportive of integrating faith based education at the prison.