The primary function of the Chaplain for the Florida Department of Corrections is to provide for the religious needs and obligations of those institutionalized persons who are not able to address their religious concerns in the same fashion as a person in free society. Chaplains have always provided spiritual direction to those adjusting to the confines of prison and separation from free society. They counsel inmates through crises such as a death in the family, divorce or a life threatening hospitalization of a family member. Chaplains are involved with most aspects of a prisoner's life including education, moral reform, and family liaison. As faith-based programs gain interest as a viable rehabilitative supplement to educational, vocational and betterment programs, Chaplains and their volunteers are providing a wider menu of program options.
There were times in prison history when attending a chapel service was not optional. There was one weekly service and it was well attended because it was either mandatory or a part of release consideration. Fortunately, we are beyond those times, and the prison religion program directed by the Chaplaincy is as religiously diverse as the inmate population, and the opportunities for participation are frequent. Participation is not required so inmates involved in Chaplaincy programs do so for personal reasons. The most prominent of these is the genuine desire to make qualitative lifestyle changes to break the cycle of recidivism. The Chaplain in a Florida prison has an obligation to provide diverse religious education opportunities and in so doing, makes use of numerous citizen volunteers of many different faith communities. Increasingly, Chaplains manage religious programs that include a calendar filled with sacred text and doctrinal studies, seminars, regular and special-occasion religious services, holy days of obligation and a variety of other special events. It is often a very busy and demanding schedule. There is an increased interest in religious programming as a venue to address and provide solutions to the problems of offenders. Chaplaincy is an important part of the criminal justice process. It has grown to be a source of stability and moderation for those inmates involved in its programs.
It is the intention of the Office of Program, Transition and Post-release Services to quantify and evaluate the efficacy of all programs. This requires accurate measurement of inmate participation. Like many program staff, the Chaplains report regularly on the religious activities taking place under their supervision. Many of the events have large attendance numbers and are cumbersome to maintain an on-going record of participation. Additionally, the past manner of record keeping provided a gross number for attendance. This number combined the attendance of all of the various services and activities throughout the month into a single figure. The gross attendance number accurately reflects attendance records but includes every time an inmate attended a religious activity. This number may count one inmate several times in one month. With some inmates attending only a few times each month and some attending many, the gross attendance record could easily be higher than the institutions total inmate population. It did not at all indicate how many inmates do not attend any religious activities during the month. Though the gross attendance is standard in correctional institutions, it is limited in its usefulness.
Chaplaincy Services identified an essential measure that would provide a more accurate assessment of the importance of religious programming. This essential measure is to identify the number of inmates that participate at least one time in a measurement period in a religious program in the prison. Measuring the number of different inmates that are involved in religious programming provides valuable insight into the effectiveness of a program as it pertains to the number of inmates that are impacted by religious programs. Since inmates participate in the overall program at different rates and frequencies, an accurate measurement tool will provide two measures:
A participation rate can be established by determining the percentage of inmates out of the total available2 inmate population that take part in at least one religious activity per month. The inmate is only counted for those activities where inmates are required to sign-in. Each inmate is counted only once during the measurement period whether the inmate attended once or multiple times. The measurement period is one month. When the total number of inmates is compared to the total available inmate population, a rate of participation is identified. If 100 separate inmates signed into religious activities during a given month, and the total available inmate population is 1,000, then the participation rate is 100 out of 1,000 or 10%.