The institutional Chapel program schedules worship services and religious education classes every week. The prison chapel serves the entire inmate population and all of the 111 different religions among inmates in Florida. The Chaplains utilize nearly 16,000 volunteers annually to assist the department in providing a variety of services to a religiously diverse inmate population.
Volunteers supplement the schedule of religious activities by providing for weekly services. They patiently share their expertise and help inmates sustain and grow in their faith.
Mentoring is a program that matches one inmate with one volunteer for the purpose of assisting the inmate to develop personal responsibility and emotional maturity. Many volunteers are needed to commit to being mentors. Those that already do mentor inmates indicate that it is one of the most personally rewarding volunteer tasks they have ever done.
Volunteers are involved enthusiastically in the religious activity in the prison. They provide worship services, seminars, weekly classes and special religious events. Some volunteers provide clerical support to the chaplain's office. Others serve as mentors. Volunteering in prison is a unique opportunity to serve the public interest and to help individual inmates make meaningful and lasting changes.
Every Correctional Institution has a chapel building. Each Chapel has a Chapel library where inmates have access to a variety of religious texts, devotional books, sacred literature, and newsletters. Most chapel libraries also have a modest media center where religious CD’s, cassettes and DVDs are available for inmate use.
One of the more recent trends in prison ministry is to provide life skills training to inmates. Religious volunteers teach about practical life management skills and come at it from the perspective of their faith. Topics include personal money management, parenting skills, victim awareness, employability skills, citizenship, marriage enrichment, problem solving, and managing emotions. Volunteers spend time and effort in bringing programs to inmates. In FY 2011-12 Florida volunteers contributed over 283,000 hours of service.
Tattoos may indicate a difficult past. Chaplaincy Programs challenge inmates to look inward/upward and make positive life changes. Hope for the future is one benefit of the chapel programs.
Religious programs are well liked at all institutions. In this picture, inmates line up at Lawtey CI waiting for the services and classes to begin. Lawtey CI is one of ten locations where there is a Faith and Character Based residential program.
Special events and services are regular occurrences at all of the Department's institutions. Volunteers bring talent and challenging messages to services scheduled by the chaplains. These events are a valuable part of institutional life.