Saturday, January 29, 2011

Budget cuts would separate church from state (prisons): Chaplains on the chopping block

I was forwarded an email from our friend Emmett Solomons, the former head chaplain at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who now runs the Restorative Justice Ministries Network, sounding the alarm about the House and Senate budgets both zeroing out all funding for TDCJ chaplains. Here are some notable excerpts:
Here is the ugly reality facing Texas: 
1) The primary budget cutters do not value what Chaplains do.  They have cut the entire department.  These trained professionals manage the religious programs at each Texas Prison. 

2) If they are cut, the program will have to be managed by a correctional officer or a secretary. (They will be pulled from their other duties -- little savings, huh!) 

3) Chaplains also provide "Pastoral Care" for everyone in the institution. It is difficult to find a community of 500 people in America which does not have pastoral care.  Such care will be very hit and miss without the Chaplaincy Department if it occurs at all. 

4) All a Chaplain has to do to recoop his entire yearly salary is influence one prisoner a year to give up his/her criminal activity.  The state will pay more on the person's next incarceration than is paid to the chaplain in a year. 

5) The very effective Religious Programming which we now have in Texas prisons, does not happen automatically.  Religious Volunteers must be recruited and managed.  That is the task of our chaplains.  Without them, the programming will become very uneven, if it is able to exist at all. ...
HB 1 has Chaplaincy listed as “zero funded” … which means if it is not “funded” in House Bill 1 (the Appropriation Bill), and not “funded in Senate Bill 1( the Finance Bill),  in a couple of months both the house and senate will appoint  from the Senate Finance Committee and from the House Appropriations Committee about 3-4 from each body. They will form the Conference Committee which works out the differences between HB 1 and SB 1.  It could be TOO LATE if chaplaincy is not “funded” before the conference committee.  The Key  is encouraging people (constituents) to get with their Rep and Senator and express how important it is to you and how it is good for Texas to continue the Chaplaincy Department with at least one chaplain at each prison.  Say to them: “Don’t Let Chaplaincy fail to get Funded on your watch” – “If we lose it here, we may NEVER get it back.” ...
Do not forget to Pray for guidance as you make contact with those who represent you in State Government! 
Say what you will about the chaplaincy program, and I know it has its critics, but I admire Emmett a great deal and couldn't agree with him more on this, particularly his observation that "All a Chaplain has to do to recoup his entire yearly salary is influence one prisoner a year to give up his/her criminal activity.  The state will pay more on the person's next incarceration than is paid to the chaplain in a year." How true. Another penny wise, pound foolish cut.

Hat tip to Bill Robinson at Corrections Concepts.


sunray's wench said...

I disagree with your friend, based on our experiences with various TDCJ Chaplains over the past 6 years.

Making the Chaplaincy positions voluntary within TDCJ prisons would at least mean that those who did take up the posts were doing so because they felt it to be a calling, and not a pay cheque or retirement fund. Some TDCJ Chaplains are worth their weight in gold for all the compassion they show to inmates, families and other TDCJ staff. Other TDCJ Chaplains have less compassion than a used tissue.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Would it have been better if no one were there at all in that capacity, sw?

sunray's wench said...

Actually, in some cases I would say yes.

I have heard rumblings on this topic over the past week, with some people declaring that it would infringe the constitutional right to worship by removing the Chaplaincy. I don't see how this could be the case though - many inmates who follow religions that are not Christianity get by without any formal "Chaplaincy" in place, and TDCJ aren't facing any law suits that I know of because of a lack of paid Buddhist priests etc.

The Kairos ministries do a lot of work both in prisons and at the point of re-entry. Perhaps TDCJ could approach them and others to take up the slack?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Volunteers are not free, they must be managed. Somebody affiliated with TDCJ has to facilitate outsiders ministering to prisoners. If not chaplains, who?

Anonymous said...

Rev. Charles here:

Scott, I have mixed feelings on this one. The good Baptist in me is a strong advocate of separation of Church and state, but I realize the value of diverting just one prisoner from a life of crime. If a cross section of churches would fund an ecumenical chaplaincy which still would respect all religions and not try to proselytize, that would be a better solution. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Incidentallly, I have the same reservations regarding military chaplaincy. Military chaplains paid by public funds have been known to proselytize.

DeathBreath said...

First of all, let me state that most offenders I have encountered within TDCJ use the Chaplain office for secondary gain, getting together with their lovers. Their so-called religious conversion has a very short shelf life upon release.

When I watched the documentary on the Connally Seven, I was quite amused when I observed them reciting the Lord's prayer during the commission of a truly heinous crime spree.

According to Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D., religiousity is a criminal thinking error. Most offenders exploit it. So, I applaud GOPigs for scrapping this worthless program.

Praise the Lord.

DeathBreath said...

I would also like to comment on the many religious volunteers I've encountered in TDCJ. In my opinion, many of these individuals have issues. Typically, they project their religious philosophy onto others & are easy marks for manipulation and exploitation.

Offenders with serious mental illness are quite difficult to manage in TDCJ. Some, with bipolar or schizophrenia refuse to take psychoactive medication. When they decompensate, compelled medication is warranted within an inpatient psychiatric setting.

Throughout the years, I have had countless numbers of religious volunteers talk patients out of taking their medication. These misinformed & ignorant volunteers believe that the offender's problems are a result of being out of step with Christ. What buffoons.

I remember an incident involving a bull-headed Chaplain who would not mind the rules of Administrative Segregation.

He was repeatedly warned not to put his hands through the bean slot, but he did, anyway.

Guess what happened? This elderly pastor put his hands through the bean slot to have prayer with the male offender. Consequently, he was nearly sliced to death by his loving disciple of Christ.

So, I have no quarter for those who disregard the rules. In my opinion, religious volunteers are more trouble than they are worth.

Anonymous said...

So the Chaplains who show compassion to inmates, families and TDCJ staff should be laid off and who will fill the void? The secretaries and guards? I am sure there are many worthy volunteers but they still need to be managed by someone in TDCJ as Grits said.

DB- "most offenders I have encountered within TDCJ use the Chaplain office for secondary gain, getting together with their lovers. " What are you talking about?

How do you know that inmates do not continue with their conversion after release? Have you personally followed up on their religious activities? Your condesceding attitude is annoying.

As for the connolly 7 saying the Lord's prayer - there are many incidents of people hiding behind religion and doing heinous acts- just look at the Crusades.

DeathBreath said...

Let me annoy you some more, MF.

Yes, I must admit, I've been moved when by the disciplinary cases I've cleared subsequent to conducting an interview with various offenders to see if they mental status was involved in the offense. It really inspired me relative to the power of Christ.

Each to his own. But, there is power in the word, eh? I suppose there are various religious customs such as: a) anal penetration beneath the cross; b) oral pleasuring; and c) fondling of breasts in women. In my opinion, these religious practices please the Nazarene., particularly in the prison chapel.

I've also been impressed with the convictions of many offenders after their release. In a post-release group environment, I've been touched by the continued criminal activity and arrests that have occurred in the name of Jesus, particularly the murder of others.

Yes, I guess Christians do it best, don't they? I really loved the Crusades & Inquisitions.

What love. I am moved to tears. Praise Jesus from whom all blessing flow.

DeathBreath said...

Yes, I've been directly involved in the post-prison behavior. When you've gained the knowledge & experience I have over the years, then you can comment, fool. You don't know what you're talking about. And, "shallow brooks are noisy, aren't they? Anonymous, there is a great read I would suggest to you. You can find it on Amazon. It is called, "The Final Exit." Feel free to get a copy and then try some of the methods suggested.

DeathBreath said...

"Who will fill the void?" You are suggesting that there was something there in the first place. Oh, the many tears of the incarcerated psychopath.

I find it very amusing to know that GOPigs were largely responsible for this gutting of services. Now, I am laughing my arse off. In fact, it pleases me.

Faith-based programs are so wonderful aren't they? Isn't it odd that there is no gay or pagan ministry in churches?

sunray's wench said...

DeathBreath ~ you're starting to ramble and lose credibility.

Who will manage the volunteers? Do you think that the current Chaplains do it all now? The Chaplains may agree for some religious group to go into the prison and give a seminar or a worship meeting, but the Chaplain themselves doesn't appear to be involved beyond that point. As with much of TDCJ, the situation varies wildly from unit to unit. If anything, having a policy that is the same across all units is a novelty and would certainly be welcome as a starting point to build something new, simply so that everyone knows where they stand.

I'm sure many inmates turn to a God of some kind while in prison and then leave it at the gate when they leave. That's no different from people turning to a God in the free-world and still commiting crimes. But that doesn't mean that all inmates only use the chapel as a hook up joint.

DeathBreath said...

sunray's wench:

So, you've been involved in this pathetic waste of money, the Chaplain program, for the past six years? Gosh, I am all ears. Please, enlighten me. Is there enough room on that cross for two?

So, tell me, do you believe in the little man in the sky who leads and directs your life? Do you believe that the earth is 6,000 years old?

The main thing that separates us from the animal kingdom, reason, gets suspended when someone takes a "leap of faith."

As for the so-called miracles of Christ, there were many charlatans in his midst during the "party trick" phase of his short life.

But, there is a rational explanation for these acts of healing. Remember, man invented the Bible.

Yes, J.C. affected blindness, deafness, and paralysis in his life. Yet, these are psychosomatic illnesses.

Please, tell me, how compassion changes a person. Oh, I know, if you show enough compassion, the hardened criminal will see the errors of their ways & change their lives.

You are the one being duped. You're not meeting the needs of the incarcerated. You're there for your own pathetic affirmation.

When I've interviewed thousands of patients over nearly twenty-three years, I've observed the inconsistencies in "chapel behavior" & what happens on the cell block. It is like the Mafia going to confession after murdering someone.

You go home after several hours of glory. Trust me, I've heard offenders brag about how they've played and mocked you.

Again, you're the one who is in denial.

Sometimes, when death notices are needed, the Chaplain gets involved; however, when they are off floating in the clouds of righteousness, the mental health team has to see them. But, instead of worrying about their family, they focus on themselves & ask for a "lay-in."

Some, not all offenders want a phone call. They cry and cry, but produce no tears. They become angry for being denied furlough.

I had one offender who told me his parents were killed. He went through an elaborate explanation about their violent deaths. However, when I reviewed his chart, I discovered a true miracle. His parents must have been resurrected since other clinicians documented their demise. Yes, I know my population.

Instead of comforting the bereaved, they are more focused on scamming their family for money.

So, please, continue to suckle the masses. They need your milk. Continue to prostrate yourself in the name of the risen Lord. In essence, you're not there for the offender. You're there for yourself.

You asked who will manage the volunteers? Unconsciously, you are admitting that they need to be monitored. Perhaps, when you pray, you are really talking to your unconscious mind.

If you didn't realize this, many of the Chapels were built from donations. If TDCJ really believed that this program was worthy of continuation, they would have found the funds. Pretty Boy Perry would have followed suit. But, that did not happen, did it?

So, here is a challenge. Go out to your flocks and get the money to continue the program.

Yes, Christians are so forgiving.

I was directly involved in a situation in Gainesville, Texas that showed the loving nature of Christians.

After several offenders made a profession of faith & wanted to be baptized, the Baptist church in Gainesville flatly refused them access to the healing waters.

So, thank God for people like you. You will be rewarded with jewels in your crown. Perhaps, your mansion will have a hot tub.

In my opinion, your mother should have swallowed.

Anonymous said...

I hope they do NOT elimate the Chaplaincy positions. I have experienced the loss of a chaplain at a unit for a year in the past and several volunteers tried to cover all the many programs that were running. Someone has to prepare rosters for classes, update volunteer lists, coordinate programs for different dates, hand out bibles/korans, death notices, family illness notices, counseling for offenders and staff, coordinate volunteer training and retraining. It really is just too much to expect a non-paid volunteer(s) to do. I have seen it in the past and no matter how hard the volunteers was never enough. Also they had no authority when it came down to decision making, or submitting letters. For the rumblings on compassion - depends on the issue, the offenders, the staff and what is going on. I have experienced good remarks and caustic remarks from different chaplains.

DeathBreath said...

Truthfully, I was just baiting you. I'm a bit bored today. I know many Chaplains mean well & have made an impact on lives. I've even met those in the Calvary Commission, I believe they are called. They wear burgundy-colored blazers. I was quite impressed with their commitment. It is quite difficult to not become jaded in such a population.

Good luck. In my opinion, they are making a huge mistake by reducing funding for public education, the Chaplain program, & so many others. I don't mind paying more taxes when lives are impacted. It is disgusting to be ranked so low in the 50 states regarding education. The budget is short-sighted and designed for re-election. In the end, it will end up costing infinitely more money.

But, people cannot know the mind of God, can they? When they do, they are rather arrogant & quite dangerous. We really don't know the bounty of our efforts, do we?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first remark posted her some chaplains do there job very well; however some only seem to care if the offender is practicing the Christian faith. I have seen some on a certain unit that will do everything in her power to stop any other form of services that do not conform to her christian beliefs.

sunray's wench said...

Deathbreath ~ you're funny. I did not say I was part of the Chaplaincy programme, I said we had various experiences with the Chaplains over the past 6 years. I'm not a Christian, but the Chaplains are (supposed to be).

When my best friend died a couple of weeks ago, someone who had regularly written to my husband, I phoned to ask the Chaplain if he would let my husband know - rather than wait the 2 weeks it currently takes for my letters to reach him. Not once did the Chaplain express any concern, or even say "I'm sorry for your loss".

Compassion shown to others does not change people on the spot, but it's a far better world when people do express it.

Anonymous said...

I am a volunteer coordinator for a non-profit prison ministry in south Texas and I am in charge of recruiting and managing volunteers for the detention centers. We currently have 300 volunteers and that includes the chaplaincy programs in 11 different facilities in 2 counties. It is state mandated that inmates receive religious services but the state does NOT pay for it. Instead, the prison facilities rely on organizations like us to pick up the slack and do it for free.

Anonymous said...

In Gatesville both the Warden and the Chaplain violate and deny inmates their religious service if it does not confrom to their so called Christian beliefs. Now that's a Christian for you right there!!!! This is why I lost faith in faith!!!

Unknown said...

I know religion and politics are difficult subjects. I for one know that there are hypocrits. There were in Jesus' time to. People who call themselves christians. Jesus said to people such as these that the truth was not in them. I am a reasonable person and I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior not based on blind faith, but based on the evidence of his hand in my life. Even if God were to show himself in plain sight for all to see, we would still find a way to discredit him. I heard the testimony of a man a month ago at my church. He came from prison and got saved in there and is now making a huge impact on lives everywhere he lives. Especially teenagers. Another guy who works with youth and was a drug addict that now does the same..Granted, God doesn't have to use clergy to reach the lost, but what can it hurt? Also Clergy should respect the rules. Even Jesus was careful to respect earthly authority. If you are really a disciple of Christ, you will know these things. The greatest commandment is to love, without love, we all are just buying our time here aren't we. Is it logically to think that this is all there is? There is eveidnece of so much more than what we could begin to know. No doctor or expert can answers the questions. I'm in college now and I'm studying criminal theories..Everyone's got a theory and a complaint, but the only one that I've seen that "works" is Jesus and will forever praise his name. And if there are people who hurt me, they know not what they do (without Jesus). Yes, I'd hate to see the program go, none the less, God can accomplish his work.