Texas Gov. Rick Perry made his first visit to a state prison during his nearly 12 years in office, touring a new seminary program inside a Houston-area lockup that aims to turn hardened felons into ministers behind bars, reports the Austin American-Statesman. At the maximum-security Darrington Unit southwest of Houston, Perry gave 78 convicts in the program what attendees described as “an inspirational devotional.”
“It was awesome,” said state Sen. Dan Patrick of the surprise visit. State Sen. John Whitmire, who teamed with Patrick to push prison officials to open the special program 11 months ago, said, “This project has the potential to make a big impact on the prison system.” The program, Texas’ only seminary behind prison fences, was patterned after one at the Louisiana State Penitentiary that has been training ministers for several years. “This is not a get-out-of-jail card,” Patrick said. “It trains pastors who will be ministers in prison.” Prison officials could not recall the last time a Texas governor visited a prison and mingled with convicts.