Women want 'sacred place' at prison

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

MITCHELLVILLE, Iowa (AP) -- The women at the Mitchellville prison cannot escape the din of the loudspeaker, the ''squawk box,'' even to worship. But that is about to change.

Inmates hope construction can begin this summer on a building they call the sacred place. ''It's in church that people deal with feelings of guilt and shame, and it's only then that they can let them go,'' chaplain Kay Kopatich said.

The women of Mitchellville, she said, long for a place to pray. Elizabeth Pitsor-Halcrow is among them. The 38-year-old mother hit bottom after being sent to the prison on a conviction for dealing methamphetamine. She searched her soul and found faith.

''I came here with a broken spirit, a broken heart, full of hate and full of self-pity,'' said Pitsor-Halcrow, who follows American Indian traditions.

Volunteers, Iowa churches and former Lt. Gov. Joy Corning have helped raise nearly three-quarters of the $600,000 needed for the freestanding worship hall.

About four of every five women at the prison attend some kind of spiritual service.

''Jesus is my crutch,'' says Avis Blair, a Seventh-day Adventist. ''And that's my everything in here.''

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