Incarcerated women of faith inside Central Mississippi Correctional Facility have struggled to find a reliable worship space for years, but that will soon change.

The prison in Pearl, the only state prison that holds females, hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for a new church that will primarily cater to those women.

Torri Sanders has been incarcerated at CMCF for about 21 years, and said she was struggling to contain her excitement. She said worship for groups of women usually takes place in a dining hall or another space where it is often interrupted.

“This is the best thing that this administration has brought,” Sanders said. “When they kicked down the doors and brought the church, they brought Christ in. I’m just grateful that it is something good because people are always reporting the negative from out here.”

Tara Lyle, an incarcerated person, led the group in prayer during the groundbreaking. Lyle said it is important for women to have their own space to worship.

“It involves more people, more women so that everyone has a place,” Lyle said.

Tara Lyle (right), an incarcarated person, stands with Beth Masters, head of MDOC's women's seminary program, and MDOC Superintendent Derrick Chambers while leading a prayer at the groundbreaking of Central Mississippi Corrections Facility's new interfaith center, stands on site in Pearl, Miss., Friday, August 12, 2022.

The 6,400-square-foot building will serve people of multiple faiths, and will be able to hold up to 300 incarcerated people at a time. According to a Mississippi Department of Corrections Press Release, about half of the prisoners at CMCF practice a faith. There are incarcerated Jewish people, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians, both protestant and Catholic, confined within the facility.

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