Prisons dealing with chaplain cuts

Posted November 10, 2011

State prison officials say budget cuts that eliminated more than a third of the system’s chaplains haven’t kept inmates from receiving religious services.

This year’s budget cuts eliminated 25 chaplain positions in minimum- and medium-security facilities across the state. Chaplains were retained at the state’s 14 "close-custody" (high-security) prisons, as well as at the women’s prison and the Polk youth facility. 

Critics of the $1.4 million reduction warned it would give prisoners less access to spiritual support and guidance. But Department of Correction liaison Nicole Sullivan told an oversight committee Thursday that hasn’t been the case.

"The services are being rendered at the same level," Sullivan said, thanks in large part to some 2,800 religious volunteers who have helped to fill the gaps.

In some cases, Sullivan said, communities and churches have even stepped up to pay the salary for a chaplain at a prison that would otherwise have been without one. In a few cases, the department has contracted for services with local clergy.

"Religious services are very critical to the department," she told lawmakers. "We have done the best we can do given the situation."

The list of prisons where state-funded chaplains were cut is available here. 


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  • kairosmike Nov 15, 2011

    What most folks don't understand is the chaplains do so very much more than just do religious services. They are the liaisons between the outside organizations such as Kairos, Yokefellows, churches, ministries and a great number of non-Christian religious groups that come into the prisons to minister to these men and women. This job has been added to folks who already have had to pick up several other jobs in this era of budget cuts and hiring freezes. They also scheduled services/groups and handled special events such as One Day With God and a number of others things. It is becoming easier to just say no to folks wanting to help these inmates find a better way. The vast majority of these inmates are going to get out of prison. The question is who do you want living down the street from you, the one looking for a church or their next victim?

  • keepncprisonchaplains Nov 15, 2011

    Ms. Sullivan has no idea what she is talking about on this situation. I know for a fact there are problems. Only the minimum is being done at some facilities. Why was not Chaplain Betty Brown, Director of Chaplaincy Services contacted for this article? All that is being done now is to "show" that the rest of the Chaplains should be cut. Too bad this article and the politicians are not as honest as the prison Chaplains but why would they want to hear the truth when their minds are made up?

  • marktroll Nov 14, 2011

    chris you have said more nieve things than that. if the state hadnt been spent into oblivion then they wouldnt have to make all these cuts. FACT.

  • Obama 2012 Nov 11, 2011

    "larryoboyd," church won't stop people from making mistakes. One big mistake is not allowing people to practice their religion in jail, when it may be the only thing they have left. That is the most nieve thing I have heard.

  • larryoboyd Nov 11, 2011

    If they would have been in church instead of committing crimes, they wouldn't be in jail. Why do prisoners need church, weights, basketball courts, TV and all the other stuff. Let them sit in a room and do nothing.

  • jason19 Nov 11, 2011

    "Why can't there be visiting clergy? I am sure the clergy will do it for nothing and part of volunteering"--

    Yeah, because if people WILL work for free, we should do everything we can to take advantage of that, right?

  • Obama 2012 Nov 10, 2011

    And ironic, the Republicans claim to be religious, but cut on clergy services for prisons.

  • Obama 2012 Nov 10, 2011

    How do you suggest they eat? Should they live in a cardboard box, especially for the services they do?

  • annemarek Nov 10, 2011

    Why can't there be visiting clergy? I am sure the clergy will do it for nothing and part of volunteering .