Soft pale-pink paint buffs the harshness of the cinderblock walls; mauve skid-proof flooring hushes the heaviness of the guards' steps; and a delicate blueberry tone warms the chill of the otherwise cold steel doors of this tiny sanctuary within prison walls.
Each week this classroom is transformed into a serene chapel inside the new Women's Correctional Facility at the Utah State Prison.The chapel offers one alternative for religious participation for prisoners. There are others. Various denominations sponsor Sunday worship services as well as numerous weekday programs.
"Prison is often a negative environment," said prison chaplain Dennis Marsh. "Religion adds balance by offering optimism and an opportunity for positive change."
"Crisis causes a person to realize a need for a force greater than his own," said Willie Dunn, presiding bishop of the Worldwide Gospel Church Inc.
The Rev. Dunn said many inmates are religious while in prison, but slip back to their old lifestyle within months of their release because they do not discipline themselves to the same religious study as in prison.
"While we try to do a follow-up on the inmates after they leave the prison and encourage them to continue their study, outside pressures are often greater when they lack positive support from family members," The Rev. Dunn said. "Often a family has turned their backs on the inmate because they feel they have been disgraced by his actions."
The Rev. Dunn said to succeed on the outside, inmates need to make a real commitment to Jesus Christ.
"That's what Linda did. Linda was in (prison) for possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, and she was a user," said the Rev. Dunn. "While in prison she wanted something to hold on to, something she didn't have on the outside."
He said he prayed with her and read scriptures with her. "I gave her books to read, and then I asked her to do book reports on them. But mostly I listened.
"Linda made her commitment. She became a model prisoner; she worked her way up through the system and was paroled. She is now on the outside, and she has a very good relationship with her 13-year-old son whom she takes to church with her every week."
The Rev. Dunn said being a prison chaplain can be exhausting, but success stories like Linda's motivates them to do even more.
Any troubled soul looking for answers can call anytime night or day, the Rev. Dunn said. "I've taken many collect calls, just to listen."
"The prison experience is a time for introspection," said warden Jeff Galli. "It's a time for the inmates to look at what they've done, and ask themselves, `What am I doing to myself, my friends and my family, and most of all what have I done to my victims - isn't there something I can do to turn this lifestyle around?' " he said.
"The ones that really make a change are the ones that sit with me or my counselors and talk about what they have done in their life," said Bishop Noel Enniss who, with the aid of his eight counselors, oversees the LDS Church programs at the prison.
Enniss said the inmates need to express remorse for what they have done; they have to want to make restitution, and they have to want to change.
"Their bodies may be incarcerated, but their minds are not," said Enniss. "They can work here on their mental attitude so they can enjoy the spirit of our Heavenly Father in here as well as on the outside."
Enniss said the scriptures are the greatest tool in turning a man around.
"Serious reading of the scriptures reprograms the subconscious mind better and faster than any other way."
The mind is like a loop, and when a man is in and out of prison on the same charge, there is only one thing on his mind - the vice that continually brings him here, said Enniss. "We have to break the loop and change their way of thinking.
"If we can get them to open their scriptures for 15 minutes twice a day, the spirit begins to work on them - without the spirit of the Lord, nothing happens," Enniss said.
As ministers of God, chaplains encourage the inmates to pray and write letters to their victims or victim's families expressing sorrow, Enniss said. Then he told of one inmate who wrote a sincere apology to the businessman he had wronged. "When the inmate is released from prison, he has been promised a job with the same businessman."
"While in prison, I have come to believe that God has been very good to me," said Fred, 42, who is serving time for a sex offense. "If I had not been sent here, I would be an old man involved in this kind of life (sexual abuse)."
Fred said he was not happy with what he was doing, but he could not change it. "I needed the jolt to turn me around."
Fred said he was attending sex therapy classes, but now finds his greatest strength comes from the (LDS) institute classes and from the counselors within the church programs.
"The daily institute program gives me one undisturbed hour to really focus on what I am suppose to be doing," he said.
Fred said he has prayed for his victim many times and is trying to gain a greater understanding of what she and her family have suffered.
A repeat offender, 34-year-old Jobita, is in prison for the third time. "This time I think I have learned it," she said. "When I get out of here, I'm going to stay out. Doing time is not getting me anywhere."
Jobita said the religion programs offered at the prison have made a difference in how she views her life. "Before I never attended any church services," she said. "I just never got interested in them."
Inspired by a four-day seminar, sponsored by the National Prison Fellowship Ministries, Jobita decided to look deeper into God's way for strength to change her lifestyle.
"The ministers are here to help us. They don't just read a book at us, they talk to us, and most important, they listen," she said.
Serving time for forgery, 31-year-old Mark said without the church programs at the prison, most of the inmates would lose hope.
"I know the administration doesn't have to allow us the privilege of attending church or having religious activities - it's their option," said Mark. "But I am grateful that they do allow it. I have found it's the only way that I've been able to make any changes for the good in my life."
The Rev. Victor Bonnell said inmates attend church for different reasons.
"Some attend out of boredom - because it's something to do. Some will attend for social reasons. They are happy to see the Mormon bishop, the reverend or the Catholic priest. Others will attend because they are genuinely and deeply concerned with changing their lifestyle," he said.
The Rev. Bonnell said it doesn't matter why the inmates attend church, as long as they go, because "God can work with anyone, anyplace."
When it comes to meeting the religious needs of the 2,000 inmates, the Rev. Bonnell said there is no competition among the chaplains. "We don't try to steal sheep from another shepherd's flock. There's enough bitterness and hatred inside a prison, without adding religious hatred."
The Rev. Bonnell said as religious leaders, he and other clergy try to keep peace among the various denominations. "Whenever any of us are `on the block' and an inmate asks for a particular leader, we always see that the contact is made."
The level of incarceration helps determine what kind of religious service the inmate can receive, the Rev. Bonnell said. There are about 500 men on heavy lock-down and death row - termed "intensive management" by prison officials. These inmates "receive no formal religious instruction or services - only brief visits through cell doors from chaplains or volunteers - and they feel cheated," he said.
The Rev. Bonnell said most of the intensive management inmates realize a need for religion in their lives and have begged for the right to worship. "There isn't much privacy with a cell visit. Everyone is redeemable before God. And when you treat the inmates with respect, you can change them."
Although the prison chaplains agree they can't change all the inmates, they believe they can work with them and plant religious seeds in their minds.
"If we plant the seeds, and if the spirit is strong enough, a message will ring in their ears. Sometime, some place, the ringing message will instigate change," Enniss said.