“You Have Heard It Said: Visit the Imprisoned. But What About Their Guards?”

I’m in America magazine:

…At the crucifixion, the two people who confessed Jesus as Lord were a fellow prisoner and the centurion assigned to guard them. From the very beginning, Christ came to deliver not only captives but their guards.

And yet today, startlingly few Christian ministries exist to serve those who work in jails and prisons. Chaplains and other Christian volunteers come to visit inmates—following Jesus’ call in Matthew 25:36—but corrections officers are mostly left to handle their spiritual lives on their own. Trained to mistrust others, doing work that is poorly understood and only noticed when it is done wrong, working overtime in an environment of fear, stress and split-second moral decisions, officers show all the signs of people in crisis: high divorce rates, high rates of post-traumatic stress and depression, high rates of substance abuse; several studies have found that their suicide rate is among the highest of any job in the United States.

I spoke with several people who looked back on their corrections work as a time when they were able to make a positive difference. But most people I heard from echoed the assessment of Jeffrey Rude, a chaplain and trainer of corrections officers: “Our staff are hurting, and our staff are desperate.”

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