Chapel of Hope Ministries, Inc. (COH) reflects the commitment of Frank E. Graham, Jr. to build chapel facilities inside every prison and jail unit in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) system. A soul-winner and veteran of prison ministries, Frank is a long-time deacon and active lay leader at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Frank was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel by Dr. Jack Graham and the pastors at Prestonwood Baptist Church on December 11, 1996. He graduated from Texas A&M University in January, 1963 with a BBA in Accounting.
He and his wife, Carol, were married in 1969 and have two children. Trey, a 1994 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and he has also received a Masters of Divinity, from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in December, 1999. Trey is Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Melissa, Texas. He and his wife Bretta have five childen. Emily is a 1996 graduate of Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas, and she has also received a Masters of Business Administration degree from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, in May, 1998. She has earned the certification to become a Chartered Financial Analysis which the highest Certification in the financial industry. She has her own business as a consultant in estate planning for individuals. She and her husband have one child.
Frank became involved in prison ministry in 1986 by first participating in the Bill Glass “Week-End of Champions” prison evangelism weekends in Texas and other state prison systems. In 1987, Frank began spending 35-40 weekends per year as a volunteer chaplain at the Coffield TDCJ Unit and Michael TDCJ Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas. Frank’s primary ministry duties were witnessing, passing out Bibles, and encouraging inmates who were in the Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) area of the prison. Ad-Seg houses the inmates who are locked up continuously in solitary confinement because they are too dangerous for placement in the general population of the prison.
In January 1993 at the Michael TDCJ Unit, Chaplain Jerry Groom first shared with Frank the need for chapel space on the Michael Unit. Frank had witnessed the problem of inmates being turned away from the chapel in every service because there was inadequate space for all the inmates who wanted to come to the chapel program. Frank also saw that there was no space to provide for teaching of the life-changing programs which Chaplain Groom wanted to implement. Soon God began to give Frank a vision to promote the building of chapels (faith-based educational space) in every Texas prison and jail. Frank and Carol have both learned through Dr. Henry Blackaby’s course, Experiencing God, that if a vision is so large that only God could achieve it, and if prayer, the Bible and Godly counsel confirm it, then it must be God’s plan. Frank and Carol submitted to God’s call on their lives to build prison chapels. In October, 1994, Chaplain Groom was promoted to the position of Texas Director of Chaplaincy. Groom’s promotion gave birth to Frank and Carol’s expanded missionary work to build chapels in every prison and jail operated by TDCJ.
The situation in early 1993 presented a negative picture of the possibilities for a successful ministry in building prison chapels. No other private citizen had ever built a chapel in a Texas prison and no one knew how to legally build a chapel in a prison. The Graham's did not even know how they would financially support themselves and their family in this new, innovative ministry. Yet, they stepped out in faith, trusting that Jesus would be sufficient for all of their needs.
In May, 1995, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice passed a Board Policy, originally drafted by Frank Graham, which granted permission for the Engineering Directorate of TDJC to accept funds from public sources in order to construct chapels. Additionally, the Board Policy guaranteed that every TDCJ inmate would be guaranteed the right to practice their free exercise of religion guaranteed by the first Admendent to the U.S. Constitution.
Frank has had a part in helping establish seven chapels in various TDCJ units. In a cooperative financial effort of Prestonwood Baptist Church, the Hillcrest Foundation in Dallas, and TDCJ, the first chapel was constructed at the Hutchins State Jail in Dallas in 1996. In December, 1995, The Kenneth Copeland Ministries donated sufficient funds to COH for the construction of the second chapel, located at the Hughes Unit in Gatesville. In November, 1996, COH negotiated a major grant from the Meadows Foundation in Dallas to help fund the chapel construction and purchase of amenities for the third chapel at TDCJ’s Mark Stiles Unit in Beaumont. The fourth chapel was completed, August, 2001, at the TDCJ Connally Unit in Kenedy and was funded by a group of businessmen from Austin, Texas. The fifth chapel was completed in November 2001 at Plane State Jail, in Dayton was funded primarily by the TDCJ Jail Division and a group of ladies in the Houston Area. The sixth chapel was established at the Henley Unit in Dayton. The seventh chapel, located at the TDCJ Murray Unit, in Gatesville, had it first service on Easter Sunday, 2003 and was funded primarily by a group of six ladies from the Dallas area. Each chapel has been funded in a unique way by God's devine guidance.
There are two active chapel projects: Restoration of the chapel at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville and build a new chapel at the Murray Unit in Gatesville.
Over twenty communities have currently caught the chapel construction vision which God gave to Frank Graham and are currently raising funds to build chapels in TDCJ prisons or jails in their respective areas. The fund-raising groups consist of believers who belong to Baptist, Assembly of God, Methodist, Catholic, Non-Denominational, Full Gospel, Church of Christ and other denominations.
In October, 1995, COH helped bring into operations the first inmate parenting center in a TDCJ female prison. The need for a parenting center was brought to the attention of COH while surveying the needs for chapels for 9,700 female inmates incarcerated in Gatesville, Texas. COH was lead by God to approach Buckner Baptist Benevolences (BBB) about helping fund this project. BBB came forward to staff the first Parenting Center ever created in a TDCJ female prison unit.
In March, 1996, COH was able to purchase a bus for the Hutchins State Jail to provide transportation for inmates to do community service projects and to provide nmate choir concerts in local churches. One of the community projects is a volunteer inmate housing construction program managed by Habitat-for Humanity. To date, three buses have been donated to TDCJ by COH, for inmate transportation. In addition to Hutchins State Jail, buses have been donated to Plane State Jail, in Dayton, TX, for female inmates, and the Buster Cole State Jail, for male inmates, in Bonham, Texas. COH has a goal to locate fifteen more buses for donation to TDCJ.
In January, 1997, COH helped Angels Unaware, a group of women who mentor female inmates in Gatesville, Texas, raise funds to refurbish a house in Fort Worth, Texas. This house will become a “transition” home for released female inmates.
On January 7, 1997, Frank E. Graham, Jr. participated in The Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Awards ceremony in Houston, Texas. Frank received this prestigious award as result of being nominated by the TDCJ Chaplaincy Department.
On March 20, 1997, received the Director’s Citation from Mr. Wayne Scott, Executive Director of TDCJ. This award is the most prestigious award that TDCJ gives for service to the agency.
On November 12, 2009, was inducted, by Bill Glass, in the Champions for Life, Hall of Fame.
There are currently 110 prisons and jails in Texas, housing 135,000 inmates, making Texas the largest prison system in the western world. The most current numbers show that 48% of inmates released in 1991 were back in prison in 1994. The recidivism rate has gradually increased from 35% in 1984 to 48% in 1991.
The Chaplaincy Department of TDCJ has developed a curriculum called “Life Change Academy” taught to inmates by trained volunteers. These courses are designed to bring about a change in lifestyle which will result in preparing the inmates to become productive, law-abiding citizens in the “free world” after release from prison. The primary factor hindering the growth of this program is chapel (educational) space. Only twelve prisons in Texas have reasonably adequate chapel space. Ninety-eight of the TDCJ units have little or no space available for the chaplaincy department to provide room for recruited volunteers to work with inmates. Currently over 6,000 volunteers work in TDCJ units each month. According to estimates by the Chaplaincy Department, twice that number of volunteers would be available if sufficient chapel (educational) space existed.
The primary scope of COH activities is in the State of Texas. The future impact of COH’s mission will also be felt nationally because Texas’ system is a model for every prison system in the United States.
There are three primary constituencies who will benefit from the work done by COH. First, the inmates at the prison or jail will receive help from the “Life Change Academy” programs. Second, the citizens in the state will benefit from the reduced crime resulting from the changed lifestyle of the released inmates. Third, the citizens of Texas will benefit from an overall reduction in the cost of our Texas prison system in housing repeat offenders.
Chapel of Hope Ministries, Inc., is a 501 (c) - (3) non-profit Texas corporation. The operational funds for COH come from donations by supporters of this ministry. COH does not participate in the collection of funds to build chapels. All money collected by the local fundraising groups remains in their control and is dispersed by the local fundraising group.
Chapel of Hope Ministries is endorsed by: