The ministry of chaplains serving the State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana, is the focus of an Episcopal Church documentary titled "Changing Lives: Behind the Walls at Angola."
A clip of the feature-length program, newly released this year, is online here.
The chaplaincy is among the ministries featured in a Sunday leaflet insert distributed for use in congregations this Sunday, November 19. DVD copies of the full documentary may be purchased at $15 each through Episcopal Books and Resources; (800-903-5544).
The penitentiary, known simply as "Angola," is Louisiana's only maximum security prison, located some 59 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. With an inmate population of 5,108, some 86 percent are violent offenders and 52 percent are serving life sentences.
"Changing Lives" follows Deacon Charles DeGravelles as he ministers to the men inside Angola, most of whom will never set foot outside the prison. Also featured in the documentary is the Rev. Jacqueline Means, prison ministries director on the Episcopal Church Center staff.
"This project was a labor of love for everyone who worked on it," said Michael Collins, director of broadcast and multimedia at the Church Center. "I think at the end of the day the whole thing is ultimately about redemption, both for the inmates and those who minister to them."
Collins added that the documentary is helpful for study forums and other parish gatherings.
The documentary follows several inmates, from a former hospice care-giver now stricken with cancer to a former inmate struggling with everyday life on the outside.
The Episcopal Church's Office of Communication was granted access to the prison through the cooperation of Warden Burl Cain and his staff.