More than 27,000 inmates are in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ custody.
Of those, most struggle with drug and mental health problems. Often times, their struggles began at a young age.
While all made bad choices that led to their incarceration, most grew up without any of the role models or stable family settings others take for granted.
That’s part of what guides and motivates Carl Steiner, Oklahoma State Reformatory’s volunteer of the year and Bible study volunteer.
“I preach to them,” Steiner says. “I’m not perfect either. I have problems, too. I can relate to them.”
Steiner, with the Living Water United Pentecostal Church of Mangum, leads a Bible study every Friday night at the Granite minimum security prison for men.
Steiner, who works at Altus Air Force Base as a mechanic, urges them to be a man to their children – and a man to their wives.
To him, that means modeling the right behavior, making the right decisions, and finding constructive, prosocial activities to fill their time, like getting a job and staying away from drugs.
“They’ve made mistakes before, but they’re not defined by that,” Steiner says.
All of the 1,025 inmates at OSR will discharge eventually.
He encourages them to become rooted and grounded in a church after they discharge.
One of the things he likes the most about volunteering is when he hears from former inmates who he’s helped go on to live productive lives integrated with society.
“You’ve got to plant the seed. That’s what I’m trying to do.”