Without volunteers to help turn violent inmates to God, South Carolina's cash-strapped prisons agency couldn't offer any faith-based programs.
On Thursday, hundreds of men and women volunteers gathered with officials to celebrate a milestone 15 years in the making, breaking ground on a new inmate chapel organizers hope will offer a spiritual home to the men at McCormick maximum-security prison.
The chapel, built with $300,000 in state matching funds and donations - some of which came from the inmates themselves - will be available to any of McCormick's 1,200 inmates who want a quiet place to pray. But it will likely be more than that for the 100 men who are currently participating in the prison's first faith-based program.
In the program, the men eat, sleep, exercise, work and pray together. For 12 weeks at a time, they attend classes on self-improvement, including personal responsibility, anger resolution, addiction treatment and parenting.
There are several smaller faith-based programs already in place in South Carolina's prisons. But the McCormick project, which started in January, is the agency's most significant effort to improve inmate behavior and, hopefully, cut down on inmates committing crimes when they're released.