Chaplains create a healing atmosphere within prisons

Unless something is done soon, the new budget will force all prison chaplains in the state to be laid off, effective July 1. For more than four years, we at the One Love Foundation have visited several faith groups in North Carolina prisons, often on a monthly basis. We have also sponsored several concerts attended by hundreds of inmates. All our visits and concerts serve to remind the inmates to teach and learn love, even behind prison walls.

The chaplains are essential in creating a healing and redemptive atmosphere within the prisons. They organize chapel gatherings for all faiths, especially during their holy days; they host and coordinate the many volunteers who unselfishly offer their help. They give direct personal counseling and advice to inmates in times of crisis and often to the prison staff as well. They are the heart and hearth of the institution. Every prison superintendent can vouch for the need of a caring chaplain to operate an effective and rehabilitative institution.

To remove the chaplains would also be a grave mistake in several other ways, including possible financial impacts. Without the on-site support and counseling from the chaplains, violence in the institutions, as well as recidivism, will increase as true rehabilitation decreases. On a financial level, lawsuits from inmates not given their mandated faith-based services can cost the state much more than the savings created by removing all the chaplains.

We all know that there are many troubled and lost souls in prisons (as there are everywhere), but to leave these people without any permanent, reliable spiritual comfort is to abandon them spiritually and emotionally. Is this the kind of state, the kind of society, we want to be? How would we react if we were told that our church, synagogue or temple would no longer have a pastor, rabbi or minister?

I implore the Appropriations subcommittee and Gov. Bev Purdue to rethink this budget cut and, with human compassion and kindness, reverse the decision. As Jesus reminded us in reaching out to those in distress: “I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”

— Julia and Robert Roskind
Blowing Rock

who: Marni Nixon
what: “The Voice of Hollywood” cabaret show and benefit for the Asheville Lyric Opera
where: Diana Wortham Theatre
when: Sunday, Aug. 29 (3 p.m. $35/$40/$50. Purchase tickets at 257-4530. www.ashevillelyric.org or 236-0670)

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6 thoughts on “Chaplains create a healing atmosphere within prisons

  1. Dionysis

    The letter writers had a similar piece published last week in the AC-T. They are no doubt sincere and concerned, but the reality is that everything is on the table for cuts, which will adversely affect many people in very tangible, concrete way (i.e. unemployment extension, demise of the Earned Income Tax Credit and many other such effects). It seems hard to defend the continuation of allowing clergy, who delve into the realm of the supernatural and such, to continue to practice their calling if that entails continuing to feed from the public tax trough.

    Clergy would certainly not be banned from continuing to provide these ‘services’, but to do so via funding from public largesse seems hard to justify in these lean times.

  2. travelah

    It would probably be a mistake to eliminate the Chaplain positions. They manage the various faith resources that come into the prisons for missionary work and they usually bring a working knowledge not only of their own faith but the faiths of others who seek to enter these restricted areas. A good chaplain is better able to weed out opportunists and ulterior motives.
    However, if the positions were eliminated I would hope that there would be enough volunteer pastoral resources to fill the void.

  3. Just Me

    Most clergy are volunteers for prisons- i.e. the ones that come from the community from various faiths. I would imagine that security and contol purposes demand that a bonded employee on the inside have oversight and coordination of these efforts and the clergy coming and going out, as well as any other non-LEO personnel.

    Maybe prisons can consolidate efforts with education coordinators or other programs they have in prisons that must have someone in charge and on duty.

    It sounds like some chaplains have become defacto therapist. I am guessing actual mental health professionals for prisoners have already been axed?

  4. bill smith

    [b]Free Mumia! [/b]

    Oh yeah. Whatever happened to that guy? I thought the college activists had broken him out by now.

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