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Survey of Prison Chaplains


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#1 annewandering

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 05:14 PM

New survey of prison chaplains shines light on religious life in jail | Deseret News

Thought you all might be interested in this.

#2 prisonchaplain

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 11:23 PM

I listened to most of a 60 minute presentation of this research by Pew. It was informative and ground-breaking. At the same time, Pew expects their report to be skewed by misleading headlines. So, here are some of the findings, in balance:

1. While many chaplains (most of whom were white, older, and Protestant Christian) did see some amount of "religious extremism," only 4% saw any kind of security threat at all. One example cited of extremism is the belief that all those not a member of my faith tradition will go to hell. Extreme? Perhaps. That's in the eye of the beholder. However, that idea is not going to result in some one blowing up bombs or starting riots.

2. While there is a lot of "switching" in prisons, it is often temporary, and also often done for "privileges." For example, Jews might be seen as getting better meals, and extra matzo crackers and juice for their sabbath. Switching may also be done more for social reasons than for spiritual crises reasons.

3. The report correctly points out that most chaplains are very satisfied with their labor.

For those truly interested, I suggest scanning the actual report. While it's about 100 pages, reading the beginning and the end, and a few paragraphs after interesting headings will give you a better picture of the research.

Religion in Prisons: A 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains - Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Edited by prisonchaplain, 23 March 2012 - 11:27 PM.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- Lord Acton


#3 Spartan117

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 03:18 AM

For those truly interested, I suggest scanning the actual report.


Pfft. What do you know about being a Prison Chaplin? :P

Thought I'd try shooting my way out. Mix things up a little.


#4 Captain_Curmudgeon

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 01:06 PM

The Pew Foundation does a lot of interesting research and I'm grateful for it. But something like this leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Very surprised that pagan/earth religions have a strong (and growing) presence. And do they get chaplains? (This may be a gripe leftover from my service in the Navy. We got herded in with the Protestants and most of the stuff they were doing didn't make a bit of sense to me. On the other hand, I was forced to attend only at OCS.)

#5 prisonchaplain

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 02:00 PM

Very surprised that pagan/earth religions have a strong (and growing) presence. And do they get chaplains?


If there were enough Pagans to justify a chaplain then it could happen. I know that it was either Minnesota or Wisconsin that did have a Wiccan chaplain. Ironically, she had changed her last name to Witch. Far more common though would be for us to hire a religious contractor. The qualifications are lower, the # of inmates needed to justify one are fewer. They would come in, most often weekly, just to provide actual services.

In the federal system there are Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist chaplains.
The reason many minority religions do not have full-time chaplains is that the qualifications are quite high. They generally need 90 graduate hours of study (a typical Masters is 30-36). Their coursework must fall within certain categories. They also need full-time experience in ministry, and the approval of their faith community. Many states also require 1-4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education. So, with such a high bar, most smaller religious groups simply do not bother.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- Lord Acton


#6 Traveler

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:19 PM

If there were enough Pagans to justify a chaplain then it could happen. I know that it was either Minnesota or Wisconsin that did have a Wiccan chaplain. Ironically, she had changed her last name to Witch. Far more common though would be for us to hire a religious contractor. The qualifications are lower, the # of inmates needed to justify one are fewer. They would come in, most often weekly, just to provide actual services.

In the federal system there are Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist chaplains.
The reason many minority religions do not have full-time chaplains is that the qualifications are quite high. They generally need 90 graduate hours of study (a typical Masters is 30-36). Their coursework must fall within certain categories. They also need full-time experience in ministry, and the approval of their faith community. Many states also require 1-4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education. So, with such a high bar, most smaller religious groups simply do not bother.


Hmmmmm - I am not sure that I would call the "standards" high. The respect I have for you has nothing to do with your post graduate work - I would think your standards high without any college experience. BTW - I do not think Jesus or his apostles had much college experience.

The Traveler

#7 prisonchaplain

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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:30 PM

Hmmmmm - I am not sure that I would call the "standards" high. The respect I have for you has nothing to do with your post graduate work - I would think your standards high without any college experience. BTW - I do not think Jesus or his apostles had much college experience.

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The Apostle Paul was well educated, and Timothy was commanded to study hard that he might rightly divide the scriptures. The standards which cannot be quantified, such as calling, anointing, and pure love of God are not ones government agencies dare to score, or rate. On the other hand, in my interactions with chaplains, I've found an overall high level of sincerity, spirituality, and work ethic. The correlation is not 100%, but those who subject themselves to rigorous study, for the purpose of serving others in a religious context, tend to become reasonable counselors, teachers, and yes, administrators.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- Lord Acton


#8 Traveler

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 04:47 AM

The Apostle Paul was well educated, and Timothy was commanded to study hard that he might rightly divide the scriptures. The standards which cannot be quantified, such as calling, anointing, and pure love of God are not ones government agencies dare to score, or rate. On the other hand, in my interactions with chaplains, I've found an overall high level of sincerity, spirituality, and work ethic. The correlation is not 100%, but those who subject themselves to rigorous study, for the purpose of serving others in a religious context, tend to become reasonable counselors, teachers, and yes, administrators.


It is my understanding that today's concept of a university and qualifications for a degree is an outgrowth of pagan concepts. The ritual of graduation; including the cap and gown can be traced to ancient pagan rituals of "universal" advancement toward g-d hood.

I agree that it is good to be educated and that study is important. The pursuit of scholarship is a good thing. In general I believe discipline to be a mark of a good and righteous person.

However, I believe that each religious organization has the right to determine what qualifies as a "minister". What I find so rather odd is given example where my nephew plays the organ. He is LDS but plays (and is well paid) the organ for a very prestigious Protestant Church in Boston because his musical credentials qualify him. But stranger still for me is that the pastor that gives the weekly sermons is Jewish but is considered qualified because of his academic achievements.

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#9 prisonchaplain

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 11:10 PM

It is my understanding that today's concept of a university and qualifications for a degree is an outgrowth of pagan concepts. The ritual of graduation; including the cap and gown can be traced to ancient pagan rituals of "universal" advancement toward g-d hood.


I've heard the same thing about many Christmas and Easter trappings, but still consider the holidays to glorify the King of Kings, rather than Germanic deities.

However, I believe that each religious organization has the right to determine what qualifies as a "minister".

To be clear, one requirement for chaplains is that they be endorsed by their faith community. The organization does determine the qualifications.

Beyond that, to be employed into civil service as a chaplain, the candidate is required to have 90 graduate credits of study in counseling, religion, administration, etc. This requirement does not replace or inform what the faith community endorsers do. It is a secular requirement for a position of leadership in a government agency. Most department heads in my facility have similar degrees--MD's, Drs. of Psychology, MPAs, etc.

What I find so rather odd is given example where my nephew plays the organ. He is LDS but plays (and is well paid) the organ for a very prestigious Protestant Church in Boston because his musical credentials qualify him.


Traditional, or classic, hymns played on a pipe organ, or a high-quality electric one, probably do require a high level of artistic talent. On the other hand, being Pentecostal, I too find it bizarre that churches would look outside their membership--even outside their faith tradition--to find a musician. We believe our music team requires anointing, and so would expect everyone on the platform to be "of like precious faith."

But stranger still for me is that the pastor that gives the weekly sermons is Jewish but is considered qualified because of his academic achievements.

That's just wrong, in my view. A Christian pastor who doesn't believe in Jesus???

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- Lord Acton


#10 Traveler

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 08:23 AM

I've heard the same thing about many Christmas and Easter trappings, but still consider the holidays to glorify the King of Kings, rather than Germanic deities.

I hope you will take this in the best context - but it is my understanding from the ancient scriptures that we not be double minded concerning our religious worship - or as the ancient prophet Elijah in essence said - “Choose this day who you will serve”. I say this because I also believe in extreme cases this attitude can just as well justify religious persecution and bigotry. But I was somewhat delighted with a LDS scholar (Hugh Nibley) gave the comment prayer at a BYU graduation and in his prayer asked G-d to overlook the many vain displays and wearing of the robes of the “false” priesthood. Yah - that caused quite a interesting discussion about graduations for some time. There are still cap and gowns work at commencement - but not everybody wears them.

To be clear, one requirement for chaplains is that they be endorsed by their faith community. The organization does determine the qualifications.

Beyond that, to be employed into civil service as a chaplain, the candidate is required to have 90 graduate credits of study in counseling, religion, administration, etc. This requirement does not replace or inform what the faith community endorsers do. It is a secular requirement for a position of leadership in a government agency. Most department heads in my facility have similar degrees--MD's, Drs. of Psychology, MPAs, etc.

Just wondering - did you see the movie, "The King's Speech". Just as a case in point - many of man's greatest achievements were made by individuals unqualified to do so. For example, the first powered flight was achieved by a couple of “red nick” bicycle repairmen that discovered that the lift ratios touted at universities around the world by the leading academic experts - were bogus.


Traditional, or classic, hymns played on a pipe organ, or a high-quality electric one, probably do require a high level of artistic talent. On the other hand, being Pentecostal, I too find it bizarre that churches would look outside their membership--even outside their faith tradition--to find a musician. We believe our music team requires anointing, and so would expect everyone on the platform to be "of like precious faith."

That's just wrong, in my view. A Christian pastor who doesn't believe in Jesus???


In talking with one of the board of directors at the church - they told me that at their church (which is very old and richly endowed) - they seek out the very best that can be found. Surprise that such an attitude has made this particular "church" quite famous throughout the world. On any given Sunday it is possible that there are more visitors than regular attendees often such visitors have traveled some distance and in sort of a pilgrimage to worship at one of the oldest religious establishments in the USA. And they do put on a very impressive and moving production such that if this is in any way the goal they certainly do achieve it.

The Traveler

#11 prisonchaplain

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 09:40 PM

If I am pressed to choose between spiritual fervor and education, I'll take the spiritual fervor every time. On the other hand, in most cases, the choice is unnecessary. The two can compliment each other.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- Lord Acton


#12 Traveler

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 02:49 PM

If I am pressed to choose between spiritual fervor and education, I'll take the spiritual fervor every time. On the other hand, in most cases, the choice is unnecessary. The two can compliment each other.


As a scientist and engineer, as a bit of a historian with a heart of a theologian - it is like the saying; “Many are called but few are chosen.” Anyone can get scholastic credentials but only one inspired by G-d can bring benefit to mankind. For me one is coincidental the other is both necessary and sufficient. But only the first can be measured, tested and require payment to validate by other men - and so they (who can get away with it) require it absolutely.

The Traveler




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