The National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) in partnership with the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition (CPMC) is holding a “Pilot Project” Town Hall on August 6th, 2020 via ZOOM. The session will be co-hosted by David A. Lichter, DMin (Executive Director, NACC) and Harry J. Dudley, DMin (Ambulans Vobiscum Consulting LLC).
Dr. Lichter and Dr. Dudley, along with pilot program participants, will discuss an upcoming formation / certification curriculum for Volunteers, Para-professional and Professional Chaplains who minister to those affected by incarceration and detention. They will provide an update on current progress in developing resources to assist you in forming and enriching those who are called to minister to all affected by incarceration. Questions about the pilot project and questions for the Town Hall can be sent to (email@example.com) with CPMC Town Hall in the subject line.
Pope Francis urges all of us not to forget those in prison and detention. No matter the harm one has caused or suffered, every person is made in the image of God and should be treated with dignity and respect. COVID-19 has affected every community, especially the most vulnerable among us. The pandemic is particularly devastating to those living and working in prisons, jails, and detention and re-entry centers where close quarters have resulted in a dangerous spread of the disease.
As a Catholic community we wish to convey a message of solidarity to currently and formerly incarcerated and detained individuals, their loved ones, as well as those who are charged with their care and well-being. We urge our fellow Catholics to join us in standing in solidarity with our all too often forgotten brothers and sisters who are affected by incarceration and detention.
The impacts of the corona virus in jails, prisons, and detention centers are severe. Thousands of incarcerated individuals and facility staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, and over 100 people have died.
These reports also show that COVID-19 presents a profound challenge and responsibility for caring for those incarcerated and detained. Jails, prisons, and detention centers are very difficult to keep sanitary due to frequent entry and exit of staff and, in the case of immigrant detention, frequent transfers of detainees among facilities. Limited resources for preventative measures, protective equipment, and health care can create conditions that allow the virus to wreak havoc. Reports of lack of testing suggest measurements of the impact of the virus are incomplete. We are deeply concerned that experiencing COVID-19 from behind bars could, for some, mean a de facto death sentence.
The challenges to this population are also unique. Prison chaplains and ministers have very limited access to deliver sacraments, notably the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist, or to offer spiritual support. Attorneys also do not have regular access to their clients. Isolation, without family visits or visitors and limited or unaffordable virtual visits, increases anxiety and fear.
Those returning home from incarceration face unprecedented distress during the pandemic. Due to their criminal record, which in some states limits access to employment and assistance for housing and nutrition, and other basic human needs, returning citizens are now even more challenged since existing social services are overwhelmed. Similarly, released immigrant detainees can encounter tremendous obstacles in receiving adequate access to care and transportation to be reunited with loved ones, and need social support to ensure compliance with immigration proceedings and successful community integration.
Those who are incarcerated or detained and those caring for them, remain in our prayers. We also continue to urge political leaders to make all efforts to ensure the health, safety, and spiritual well-being of those inside, including correctional and detention staff. The COVID-19 crisis presents profound challenges for our country and our world. As we struggle to care for those in need and keep our communities safe, Pope Francis reminds us that there are no “throwaway lives.” As a Church, we are being challenged to creatively consider ways to be present to people behind bars and to those returning home—to see each other’s wounds, meet their pressing needs, and to become agents of God’s restorative work in the world.
Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization that mobilizes Catholics and all people of goodwill to value life over death, to end the use of the death penalty, transform the U.S. criminal justice system from punitive to restorative, and to build capacity in U.S. society to engage in restorative practices. Through education, advocacy, and prayer, and based on the Gospel value that every human is created in the image and likeness of God, CMN expresses the fundamental belief that all those who have caused or been impacted by crime should be treated with dignity.
CMN works in close collaboration with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is a founding member of the Congregation of St. Joseph Mission Network.
What We Do:
Education: CMN creates and distributes educational material about the Church’s pro-life teachings regarding the death penalty and restorative justice for use in parishes and faith communities.
Advocacy: CMN supports and energizes state campaigns to repeal the death penalty and amplifies the Church’s call for the end of capital punishment. Working with bishops, State Catholic Conferences, Catholic dioceses, religious communities, partner organizations, members of the laity and more, CMN empowers people of faith to speak out against the death penalty in their own communities and implore their state officials to repeal the practice.
Prayer: CMN recognizes the power of prayer and encourages and facilitates prayer for victims of violence, for those on death row, and for a justice system rooted in mercy and compassion. Being grounded in prayer serves as a catalyst for people of faith to act to end the death penalty.
In 2018, a new entity was formed to enhance Catholic ministry to those incarcerated, detained, reentering society, as well as those affected by incarceration.
The Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition (CPMC) will serve as a hub network, a resource, and an advocate for ministries and chaplains who need on-going support to do their ministry.
As Catholics, there is also a need to be advocating legislatively, both locally and nationally, for the needs of those in prison, out of prison, doing the ministry, and the detained.
“The Coalition will include national Catholic organizations which presently provide resources to families and all those affected by incarceration/detention, such as Catholic Charities USA, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Knights of Malta, Jesuit Conference, and hopefully many others, “ said Karen Clifton, a member of the executive committee, and founder and former executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network.
A key need within our Church is formation/certification of those who are ministering or are interested in ministering to those affected by incarceration. The National Association of Catholic Chaplains is part of CPMC’s formation committee, which is working to have a volunteer formation program available by May, 2019. The goal is to create an on-line, free, or minimal cost program that is easily accessible. The hope is also create materials for on-going support, and for those who are semi-professional ministers and professional ministers or chaplains.
LSSI/OBK reentry center has now been closed from mid-March to August, 2020 during which time limited work could be done helping our returning citizens or begin again to do INTAKES in the building. We did have great success in doing INTAKE of new clients over the phone, but it was not the same without the personal contact and see one another face to face. At this time with the Covid-19 pandemic we don’t see any other good options until the reentry center can open.
OBK was inspected by LSSI (Prison & Family Ministry) on July 13th and had several areas that needed improvement to meet all the CDC guidelines in particular for social distancing of 6 feet. There recommendation will be addressed and we are scheduled for another inspection on August 13 with the main areas of tapes showing 6 foot separation for client and staff. In addition, specific sign on all doors must be appropriately labeled so that clients cannot enter.
In July we are 90% complete on re-configuration of our three floors to meet those very stringent CDC guidelines about social distancing and disinfecting all areas that could endanger our staff and clients.
We hope to open our programs in mid-August so that the many Life Skill, Employment Skill and Individual Computer classes can begin. This also includes the many services and resources related to connecting with their families and the community.