Overcoming Barriers, Adding Value to People's Lives.
The latest stop on my journey into the ever compelling sub culture of inmates and families of inmates has me working as a Prison Chaplain with the Salvation Army. What does a Prison Chaplain do? We do the things you might expect, such as provide chapel services, (church services for guys inside the walls), pastoral care, (one to one weekly meetings where guys have a chance to pray and to chat about issues that concern them.). Many of the conversations center around grief and loss, particularly missing out on important developmental stages in the life of the family, due to prolonged incarceration.
We also do some things you might not expect, such as escorted temporary absences (ETA's) At lower security prisons, inmates have the opportunity to earn the privilege of being escorted into the community for specific periods of time and particular destinations. These destinations include but are not limited to: family visits, appointments, church services in the community and hospitals to visit sick family members. Chaplains serve as escorts on ETA's and the success of ETA's have a part in determining an inmates readiness for greater community access.
We also help to provide inmates with vital community resource information upon release with respect to housing, employment and social services. One of my favourite aspects of the job is the emphasis it places on face to face encounter. Unlike most vocations which have substituted technology and social media for literal personal connection, prison chaplaincy places a critical emphasis on being physically and emotionally present. Inmates are very appreciative of this and treat it as precious. It is a privilege to witness the healing and restoration that comes as a result of these encounters