By P. Berman, K. Hecht & A. Hysock
I want Larry. I must keep Davy safe. Can I get both? Is it even possible?
Claire was tired of wondering if she had to cut Larry out of her life. She was going to be her own advocate; she was going to learn more about men like Larry and decide for herself if there was a reasonable chance of safely letting him back into her life. Where could she start without making the Carsons freak out…. Claire put in a question on her computer browser asking, “what could help men stay out of prison after being in the first time.”
Several things came up, but she didn’t think the resources sounded trustworthy. Then, she found something, from the Pew Research Center- that was a trustworthy place. Wow, it’s about religion.
Larry never mentioned God. Did they even have services in jail? Maybe if life was boring…
Claire and Larry had been brought up without any attention to religion. Before moving in with the Carsons, she hadn’t really thought about religion at all. Out of respect for their views, she had started taking Davy to religious services with them; their church didn’t seem to mind how antsy Davy would get. Claire liked how accepting everyone seemed to be of finding her with the Carsons. It was the same church they had raised their real kids in and all the older people in the congregation, knew she was a foster child but were nice to her anyway.
Mr. Carson had been on the church council for years. He had spoken up and gotten the church to donate one fund raising cycle to Head Start. Mr. Carson had been very proud of his church; it was the first time he had been an advocate for a social cause and at first, things hadn’t seemed to go well. But, in the end, a majority had voted to help Head Start in their local community. They had raised enough money to provide new school books for every classroom; the ones they had currently been using were very out-of-date.
Sitting in church the next Sunday, Claire wondered what Larry would think to see her and Davy knowing all the words to all the songs in the service. Larry didn’t seem like the religious type to Claire, but this article looked promising. It said that eight-in-ten (81%) prison chaplains in the Pew survey found a spiritual connection critical for rehabilitation of prisoners in jail for substance abuse or mental health problems. For it to be effective, one chaplain was quoted as saying, “Personal contact is crucial. You minister through relationship. Being accepting, non- judgmental, working toward self– esteem issues is important” (Pew, 2012; p.66). The article went on to say that work both in-prison and out-of-prison with the continued support of the church was critical.
Huh, a non-judgmental attitude- that sounded good, the chaplain shouldn’t pre-judge Larry for hitting her. What was accepting supposed to mean? Was it like the chaplain would accept Larry, despite his being in jail like the Carsons accepted Claire, despite her being a foster kid? Claire wondered if the church could be the support for Larry that the Carsons had been for her?
Claire couldn’t imagine Larry praying. But she did find a picture- of someone who might be in prison, praying. He looked deep in prayer and he also looked much scary than her Larry. Many different religions whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and others, had chaplains who visited prisons. Not all prisons could get religious leaders to come and volunteer their time.
Maybe there was hope? Maybe if Larry’s prison had a chaplain and if Larry went to services…
While Pew says that Protestant Churches provide many chaplains and volunteers, other faiths need greater support if prisoners are to attend services within the faith of their choice. Volunteers can help to fill gaps when there are not enough religious leaders available in an area.
If you are interested in more details about religions in the prisons, consider reading:
Citation: Pew Research Center (2012). Religion in Prisons. https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2012/03/Religion-in-Prisons.pdf
Chaplain is a nondenominational title in the state prison system and just refers to a religious leader, of any faith. If you are interested in investigating whether you or someone you know could become a religious chaplain or volunteer, consider checking out: