Thursday, April 5, 2007

Who I am

Well, I am of mixed mind about this. Any rational person would want to know the source of information -- one has to evaluate any information today, whether from the internet or not. On the other hand, any work with jails and prisons requires a certain regard for privacy and security. If one has any sense at all.

Well, let's try the good old limited hangout, which definitely dates me.

I am a Roman Catholic detention minister in California, and work inside as a team with my wife. We are currently volunteers but that could change at any time. While most of my work has been at one facility my experience includes both male and female inmates in minimum, medium and maximum security facilities, both state and federal. (That actually is fewer locations than it sounds.) No jail work at this point, but I am putting much of my time into this now, including work as a catechist inside.

Why do this site? The obvious reason -- I have always wanted a resource like this, so it seemed a good idea. My professional experience includes both systems work and journalism, and I have been involved with work on the internet for well over a decade.

One important insight from detention work will be governing what I do here. My own experience and motivation for detention work comes from the Catholic tradition as set out in Matthew 25, the corporal works of mercy, and the examples of saints both ancient and modern. When we first went inside, we knew that Jesus was there strongly in an special way for both of us, and that we would be coming back as much as we could.

But that is my perspective. No matter what religious group you come from, as a volunteer you are a guest of the prison adminstration, the correctional officers, and the inmates. If you are a chaplain, your pay comes from the administration, not from your faith community. There are few things quite as ugly as a fight inside driven by bigotry, including religious bigotry. Inside, we all work together, no matter who we represent, or how our various faith communities disagree on the outside. This is not out of some kind of fuzzy ecumenical sentiment, but from hard ecumenical reality -- everyone who does detention work faces the same challenges, and those we serve have to deal with the same situation, without respect to their beliefs. This extends to everyone involved in the justice and correctional systems, including prison staff, victims, as well as inmates and their families.

That's about it at this point. I will be posting a link to this and other similar posts on the right, and will update this as it seems necessary.

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