N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--May 1998

Chaplain Improves Lives of Inmates with Music and Caring

CLINTON — Chaplain Lonnie Cook determined a long time ago to let God sort out people’s salvation and their religion. That was not his job. His focus, as the chaplain at Sampson Correctional Institution, was on the inmates themselves, not their denominations.

"Being kind, concerned and caring cuts across all faiths," Chaplain Cook said.

While talking to Cook in his office, the melodious notes from a piano in the adjoining chapel reach welcome ears. The piano, five keyboards and four guitars were donated by Cook’s pastor, friends and neighbors who were eager to reach out to the inmates.

Two inmates who had been housed out of state had told the chaplain how their spirits had been lifted because of the musical instruments that were available there. Chaplain Cook understood, and asked Asst. Superintendent Jim Bullock not only for the musical instruments, but for the Hooked on Phonics program and help from a Christian group focusing on addiction. These programs were not to interfere with any job assignments or schooling, and inmates who signed up for the music classes were to remain free of any infractions.

"Chaplain Cook has probably kept some inmates out of trouble," Superintendent Steve Muller said. "The men have responded positively, and there have been no write-ups so far."

The 25 inmates in the class are serious about learning the scales, chords and music theory, doing homework back in their dorms. Their teacher is a fellow inmate who learned how to play by ear in prison.

"This music class had been positive on the men’s morale," Muller said. "Chaplain Cook is a true non-denominational chaplain, making himself accessible to all inmates."

Chaplain Cook graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest and was pastor of a church in Pennsylvania for nine years. He wanted to come home to North Carolina, and volunteered at Wake Correctional Center before accepting the job at Sampson.

"I just do what I can to help men of all faiths," Cook said. u

NC DOC Correction News- May 1998
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