"He'd tell us to put our hands on the Bible and swear (we were telling the truth)," Brown said. "But if you don't understand what the Bible is, it's easy to lie."
As an adult, Brown saw Sunday as a "play day" to take her three children to Bear Lake. But in prison, church was the only place with answers, and Brown spent every free minute in the chapel, attending classes and peppering the Warrens and her roommate Adams with questions.
Unlike Brown, Adams had known about God, prayer and scriptures her entire life. Yet she left them behind after she got tangled in drugs and ended up in prison, where she too experienced a change of heart.
"(Deb) was really good for me," Adams said with tears in her eyes. "Who she was trying to be was who I was trying to be — a better person."
Serving in prison
When Chaplain Mary Challier teaches the Parable of the Prodigal Son, she calls it the Parable of the Loving Father.
She makes the scriptural account a play and gives each student a role. There are no costumes and only the cinderblock backdrop of a jail classroom, but the message is powerful.
After the prisoners act out the parable, Challier explores the messages of love, forgiveness and repentance, then the inmates act it out again.
"The most fulfilling part is probably what I call the 'aha' moment," Challier said. "They finally make a personal connection and they get it."
Challier, a born-again Christian missionary, has taught in the Salt Lake County Jail for six years through the national non-profit Good News Jail & Prison Ministries. Her work is an act of love, but it's also part of a legal requirement.
The U.S. Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act forbids prisons from placing burdens on an inmate's right to worship, which means that as much as possible, prisons must provide religious leaders and let inmates observe rites and rituals, whether it's Bible study, Catholic mass or Bhakti yoga class.
Hare Krishna priest Sri Hanuman Das goes several times a week to the Utah State Prison for his yoga program where nearly 50 inmates focus their energies and control their senses to develop deeper spirituality.
"(Our) philosophy isn't about changing a person's religion," Das says, "It's about having a relationship with God."
There are 27 religions represented in the Draper prison served by nearly 1,800 volunteers who come in monthly, weekly or daily, said Bob Feland, one of the prison's four part-time, non-denominational chaplains.
"I've grown to love the volunteers in prison," Feland said. "(They are) striving to touch the lives of others."
But there could always be more.
"For religion in prison to continue ... volunteers are imperative," said Harry Dammer, chair of the criminal justice department at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
"The larger the program the more important the volunteers. After all, it makes sense. Visiting people in prison is part of the whole deal. That's literally in the Bible, it's part of the religious doctrine to help people in prison."
Keeping faith alive
When Brown left prison on a rainy March day, she walked into the arms of her loving family, supportive legal team and devoted friends like Adams, who celebrated the judge's decision granting her appeal of factual innocence.
Brown now works for an understanding boss, faithfully attends her local LDS congregation and is catching up with her seven grandchildren.
Not all ex-prisoners are so lucky.
Many have burned bridges to family and friends and still struggle with bad habits that led to prison in the first place.
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