Published on October 12, 2014 by Emily Duval  

Samford University’s strong ties to prison reform were the topic of conversation in a recent convocation that featured three speakers from the Samford community. 

David Chapman, Howard College of Arts and Sciences dean, shared the university’s history with those active in prison reform. Samford was once Howard College, named after John Howard, “the father of prison reform.” Revered as a model of Christian compassion, a group of Alabama Baptists honored him half a century after his death with the name of their college. “Howard’s life was one of humility and service,” said Chapman.

Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School dean, became interested in prison ministry after his father passed away in prison when he was 12 years old. He spoke about Prison Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to supporting prisoners and their families.

Charles Colson, a politician and lawyer who spent time in an Alabama prison after being convicted in the 1970s Watergate scandal, founded the ministry. During his time in prison he became a Christian and started Prison Fellowship soon after. He and George were friends, and Colson spoke on the Samford camps not long before his death in 2012. George emphasized the necessity of students to be involved in, pray about, and care about prison reform.

Drayton Nabers, director of Samford’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, talked about the state of Alabama prisons as well shared experiences from his time in prison ministry. Nabers reported that the prison ministry is flourishing in Alabama and stressed that there is another step to take in reforming prisons.

“The greatest need we have in respect to the criminal justice system is helping support men and women once they leave prisons. Re-entry is the most time intensive and hardest part of prison ministry but these people need our love and support the most,” said Nabers.

Chapman, George and Nabers shared how Samford University has had a strong influence in prison reform while encouraging the current students and faculty to continue to be involved in the social issue of prison reform.

Emily Duval is a journalism and mass communication major and a news and feature writer in the Office of Marketing and Communication.