Maryland inmates study to go from prison to pulpit

Posted: Friday, June 27, 2003

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) About 30 inmates at the Maryland Correctional Training Center are studying to go from prison to the pulpit.

They are taking a two-year course for master's degrees from Covenant Theological Seminary of Tallahassee, Fla. (which is unconnected to a Presbyterian Church in America school of the same name based in St. Louis).

The idea for the program, launched last November, came from former inmate Tony Pavlo, who was released in 2001 after serving time for armed robbery. He was taking Covenant classes under the tutelage of an evangelical Protestant pastor in Rockville, Md., and said he wished the same opportunity were available to those behind bars.

The Rev. Gerald Banks, chaplain at the medium-security prison, took the idea to warden Michael Stouffer, who approved.

''It is great to be able to be a blessing to your community, rather than a curse,'' Pavlo said.

Since tuition is beyond the reach of most inmates, Rockville church members give donations and sponsor fund-raisers to defray the students' expenses.

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