A Pierre pastor is raising money to build a halfway house for women prison inmates.
Jack Benjamin is the pastor of Calvary United Pentecostal Church. He is also a volunteer chaplain at the state women’s prison in Pierre. Benjamin is raising funds to build a six bedroom residence he’s calling the ‘Center House.’ He’s hopeful the facility will give a few women a fresh start.
“There are statistics out there- 90 percent of the ladies in women’s prison where abused as children- that’s 90 percent of them," says Benjamin. "And all of the ones I’ve talked to have told me similar stories of the things that have happened in their life. That’s not to try and make excuses for bad decision making. But, it’s also to try and understand that hey, these people are here because of a reason and there is hope for them. I’ve just got a passion for it and I’ve had the vision for this for about four years now and it’s finally taking root and we’re getting going on it."
Benjamin says his church and the Pierre community are all supportive of the project, although building a halfway house does raise some concerns.
“Well, whenever you do something like this there is always a concern in the community because people don’t want a halfway house in their neighborhood," says Benjamin. "They’re always fearful of what if these ladies go back to their old way of life, or what if there is a situation- they don’t want to have it in their neighborhood. And I understand that concern, but the good news is that we’re not in a neighborhood. We have our own block here."
The residence is planned to be built on the same lot as the church outside of Pierre. Benjamin is hoping by next summer to have enough funds to start building. Once complete, the facility will include alcohol and drug treatment programs, and lifestyle classes such as basic house skills and time management.