Carol Vance on Chaplaincy
former TDCJ Board Chairman, former Harris County District Attorney
THE CHAPLAIN'S UNIQUE JOB:
The chaplain has a unique role, and there is not a good progressive warden out there that does not appreciate that role. The morale of the unit is two fold. It depends upon the collective morale of the staff and the general contentment level of the inmates. The chaplain is the only person who nearly always has total credibility with the inmate.
In times of collective trouble the chaplain is invaluable. For individual problems such as suicides, notices of death in the family, divorces and other problems the chaplain is the outlet to try to sooth the hurt and keep individual and collective eruptions down and to a minimum. Also chaplains have generally been available to comfort staff at times of deep need which is very important to the operation of the unit. The chaplain is the prisoner's messenger to the warden and the warden's messenger to the prisoners. His unique qualifications and experience permit him to occupy a role on the unit that is most helpful in keeping down suicides and calming anger that can easily turn to violence. This story needs to be told.
THE RECIDIVISM RATE:
Every study in America shows the importance of religion and an active spiritual life to the happiness and prosperity of the individual and the individual family. Both Presidential candidates are campaigning about faith based ministries. Studies prove kids active in church are much less likely to go to prison. Prison studies show the r-rate [recidivism] is much less if inmates are engaged in spiritual programs even if it is only a once a week Bible study. Mentoring and other programs by volunteers are a big help to society, and these cannot exist without a good and active chaplain with admin skills and who knows what he is doing. AA is based on the fact God can and does change human behavior even in the worst cases of addiction.
All of the spiritual programs at a unit are helpful to saving tax dollars and getting the inmate to change and want to take advantage of other TDCJ opportunities and to go straight on the outside. Chaplaincy holds the key to that [emphasis mine]. [For more by Carol Vance see Watershed 1]
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