Texas Catholic Correctional Ministers
The Catholic Dioceses of Texas
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Reaching Out to Offenders, Ex-Inmates, and their Families

In the USCCB document, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, the bishops state:

"A Catholic approach (to the correctional ministry) begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victim and offender.

We are guided by the paradoxical Catholic teaching on crime and punishment: We will not tolerate the crime and violence that threatens the lives and dignity of our sisters and brothers, and we will not give up on those who have lost their way. We seek both justice and mercy. Working together, we believe our faith calls us to protect public safety, promote the common good, and restore community. We believe a Catholic ethic of responsibility, rehabilitation, and restoration can become the foundation for the necessary reform of our broken criminal justice system.

The Catholic community has a tremendous history and capacity to help shape the issues of crime and criminal justice in the United States. Few organizations do more to prevent crime or heal its effects than the Catholic Church. Through many committed individual Catholics, correctional ministry programs, parish outreach efforts, Catholic schools, diocesan peace and justice offices, community organizing projects, ex-inmate reintegration programs, family counseling, drug and alcohol recovery programs, and charitable services to low-income people, the Catholic community responds to criminal justice concerns in a wide variety of ways.

Volunteers reach out to prisoners and their families, offering help and hope to those caught up in crime and the criminal justice system. Just as victims of crime have a variety of needs, so do offenders, ex-inmates and especially their families. The Church should not only have a strong presence in prisons and jails—where we Catholics work to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of inmates—but should make special efforts to assist children left without the support of their incarcerated parent."

Volunteers in the Catholic Criminal Justice Ministry can:

  • Serve in or assist prison ministry programs at the diocesan or parish levels in a variety of ways. Men and woman volunteers enter correctional units to visit offenders and provide spiritual counsel, conduct Communion services, RCIA and other faith formation programs, Bible studies, rosary sessions, divine mercy, Stations of the Cross, and other Catholic devotional programs.

All volunteers that serve in federal, state or county correctional facilities minister under the direct supervision of the unit chaplain. Ministry in state correctional units requires some kind of security application processing, including completion of a volunteer application form, a criminal background check, attending a Volunteer Orientation Training session and working with someone who has experience. (See our Resources for Volunteers web page.)

  • Reach out to the families of inmates. Parish volunteers can provide support and counseling to families caught up in the cycle of crime, including children of incarcerated parents, assist with transportation for prison visitations, and offer material assistance when income is lost because of the incarceration (often through Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul and other social ministry programs).
  • Assist re-entry programs for ex-inmates. Often the most difficult challenge for a former inmate is to successfully reintegrate into his or her community. Parishes can assist in providing the spiritual, material, educational, counseling, and emotional assistance that the probation and parole system rarely provides.

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