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Honoring Some of DPSCS’ Unsung Heroes: Chaplains

(November 2, 2012)---Few people in the entire state prison system have a “caseload” as large as chaplains. In addition to ministering to the spiritual needs of as many as two thousand inmates, chaplains also help correctional staff navigate the often difficult and challenging array of issues “behind the wire.” photo1

A typical facility may have dozens of religious groups, from Christian to Jewish and Muslim, and many more, all of which the chaplains must serve equally and fervently. Chaplains deal with devastating inmate family issues like death notifications; arrange all religious observances; and make sure all sects are equally cared for in their spiritual needs, to name just a few of their jobs.

During Pastoral Care and Chaplain Appreciation Week, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) held a special thank you luncheon for its chaplains. Approximately 20 of the 32 full-time chaplains attended the luncheon, which was held at Beachmont Camp in Kingsville. They were treated to inspirational messages from Deputy DPSCS Secretary J. Michael Stouffer; their leader, Stephanie Coates, the Chief of Religious Services for DPSCS; and former inmate Antoine Payne, who is now a minister himself running transitional houses for men who’ve just gotten out of prison. Mr. Payne spoke from the heart, singling out the chaplains who helped him confront and overcome his past during his years of incarceration within DPSCS.

photo2The day was extra-special for Pre-release System chaplain Chuck Law. Channel 13 showed up to videotape part of the event, and the videographer who came is a former co-worker of Chaplain Law’s from 17 years ago, when the chaplain was still working in TV news. Law is an example of the dedication most DPSCS chaplains are known for, having left other more lucrative and higher-profile jobs to minister behind bars.

DPSCS’ Christian, Muslim, and Jewish chaplains are the heartbeat of a peaceful facility, working with correctional officers, case managers, and other key personnel to “keep the peace.” DPSCS salutes its chaplains, one and all.