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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Prison, Family History and Indexing: Inmates at the Utah State Prison

Today's Church News has an article about a Family History Center located just off of the prison chapel at the Utah State Prison. The article is entitled, "A rescue from bondage: Family history center at Utah State Prison thrives."


The Church News article refers to Family Search Indexing. This is a volunteer program where people index records so that they can be included in the Family Search resources.

Here are some marvelous quotes and comments from the article:

Joseph Smith called for prisons to be "turned into seminaries of learning." He said, "Rigor and seclusion will never do as much to reform the propensities of man as reason and friendship."
Without benefit of Internet access, a privilege denied the prison inmates, the center's patrons last month extracted some 146,000 names as part of the FamilySearch indexing project whereby volunteers around the world digitize microfilmed records to make them accessible to enthusiasts researching their genealogical information via personal computers. 
"But to me, the more important number is the close to 10,000 total hours a month spent here in the center by the inmates," Elder Lunt said. "That's time they weren't up on the cell blocks, time when they were in an environment that was constructive. And frankly, it's an environment where the Spirit is, and they can feel that. Some of them don't know what it is; they just say, 'We feel good down here.' "
Much of the success of the center is due to the volunteers who come and interact with the inmates, Elder Lunt said. The center is open seven days a week in three shifts, the first one beginning at 8 a.m. and the last one ending at 8 in the evening. But the number of inmates who may use the center is limited by the number of volunteers who come.
In 2000, he [inmate William Thomas] was involved in the Freedman's Bank Project, a service provided by inmates at the prison to help compile what is now one of the richest databases for African-American research. A plaque on the wall at the family history center commemorates the work they performed. [See more information on African-American Family History Resources]
"That is exactly what this great work is all about, search and rescue," . . . . And in the process, some inmates are finding they, too, are among the rescued.

Last month, the Church published an article in the August Ensign entitled, "Remembering Those in Prison." It is available in the following formats: html, full pdf, article pdf, new beta html, new printer-friendly html and mp3. The new beta html includes a photo gallery from the article.


This is just a brief introduction to all the resources and programs the Church provides for those in correctional institutions. There are guidelines specifically for leaders as well.

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