Maximum Security: Accounting Students volunteer at Angola Prison
When Kathy Wooten, Assistant Professor of Accounting, asked her classes if anyone would be interested in traveling to Angola prison for some hands-on accounting experience, she only had two volunteers: Mallory Hammack and Molly Yildirim. This is not exactly surprising, given Angola’s infamous reputation in the movies and its old nickname as “America’s bloodiest prison.” Hammack and Yildirim, both Belhaven basketball players, volunteered with some trepidation to lend a hand on this very unorthodox internship, where they would assist Ms. Wooten in examining the prisoner accounts from the bi-yearly Angola Rodeo.
The women, who were later joined by adjunct professor Ed Jones, set off for Louisiana with some anxiety about the unknown territory of performing accounting in a maximum security prison setting. These fears quickly dissolved as they started work on an overwhelming amount of paperwork and saw that their presence meant a lot to the prison. As Mallory Hammack says, “I realized that I could actually help people even as a sophomore accounting major—I don’t have to be a ministries major to have an impact.” This realization also confirmed to the accounting student that “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and the value of that realization—well, you can’t put a price on that.”
All three of these women say that the experience at Angola changed their perspective on many things, and one of those things is the fact that God can work even in a dark place like Angola. They all say God’s work is evident there, from the guards to the prisoners themselves. Warden Cain, who is a former chapel speaker at Belhaven, is an outspoken Christian who has implemented faith-based programs at Angola, including a Bible college on the prison grounds. Many of the prisoners have completed seminary there, and as Mallory states, “God can heal all kinds of people—he doesn’t throw anyone away.”