Local News

State Budget Woes May Leave Prisoners Without Religious Counsel

Posted September 3, 2002

— In an attempt to save money, the North Carolina Legislature is considering a proposal that would cut a number of state-paid, full-time chaplains who serve the state's prison population.

A small group of prison chaplains met Tuesday to protest the state's decision to cut the chaplaincy staff. There are less than 100 paid chaplains in the state, but there are thousands of volunteer chaplains.

Chaplains say the prison population is difficult to serve and requires special training and dedication.

"These are all highly and intensely troubled individuals. The average volunteer cannot go in and fill that need. That's why we need competently trained and consistently employed chaplains that are there on call, ready to serve whenever they are needed," prison chaplain Bruce Pate said.

"My feat is if we don't have these trained, skilled people, folks will go to prison and return to the streets just like they've gone in," volunteer chaplain Linda Harris said.

Full-time prison chaplain Yvonne Beasley said there are other advantages to having paid chaplains.

"You have someone there who understands the policies and procedures of that facility, has a rapport with custody and other members of the staff," she said.

State-employed chaplains are paid $25,000 to $30,000 a year. The state Department of Correction may cut about 25 chaplains, hoping that volunteers and contract chaplains will fill the void.

The state Senate and House of Representatives submitted different bills to cut chaplains. Lawmakers hope to save about $1 million a year with the cuts.

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