Monday, May 28, 2012

A Good Dry Run & Proof It Can Be Done

I first began this Blog over four years ago as some sort of Journal for my Joe Tarot project. But I spent a lot of time writing about my experiences as a volunteer chaplain for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Over the years I have written about Carcer Via Prison Ministry, My Four Swords, another Four Swords, Milestones and Making Milestones and the Many Fruits of My Labors.

But I am both happy and proud to announce the this weekend we finally made our first trip to Corcoran State Prison. We were first contacted late last year and received our Brown Cards this past January. Since then we have been waiting for the administration to approve the our required documentation. And it only took them six months

When I say "our required documentation" I mean the documentation that we as volunteer chaplains require them as a correctional institution to sign. Primarily our Faith Kit Memorandum, which itemizes our required liturgical artifacts. We as clergy have the same rights and benefits as clergy of any other faith. They are allowed to bring in their required religious objects for their services and so are we. But we're not unrealistic about it, its not like we're trying to take an Athame, Boline or other bladed objects inside. Our list of items is minimal and has been approved by other institutions.

During the past six months we have been discussing the possible reasons for the delay. Chaplains from the prison would call every few weeks to set up and schedule our services, we would remind them that we were still waiting on the approval of our Memo, and they would say they would look into it and get right back to us. We must have had that same conversation at least six or seven times and we can only speculate why.

But Temperance and Fortitude have finally paid off. They finally approved our Memo and this past Saturday we provided Pagan interfaith services on two separate yards. The day went off without a hitch. We arrived an hour early in anticipation of the usual complications that usually come with the first visit to a new prison. We have come to call the first one "The Dry Run" because we never expect a dry run to flow fluidly. But flow it did, the paperwork was done and waiting for us when we arrived, our security clarance and brown cards were processed and filed, right when and where they were supposed to be.

On the yard custody staff was friendly and professional. We had absolutely no problems  getting inmates released for service and when the service ran slightly over the scheduled time the correctional staff were patient and respectful. Since it was the first visit, allowances were made. But it wasn't just our first visit, it was the first time Wiccan services have ever been performed by Wiccan clergy at Corcoran State prison. This is a bitter sweet fact as it is frustratingly sad that it took this long for it to happen, much like it took six months to sign our paper. But it did finally happen, it's another small step forward in the fight for religious equality and pluralism, and for that we are both very honored and proud to say once again that we are Proof that it can be done.

Thank you Lord & Lady for Not-So-Dry-Runs. Blessed Be.


MrBlack said...

Congratulations! That is very cool.

Anxfisa said...

Very awesome! It is incredible how much red tape there is. It is a blessing for the inmates that you stuck with it. Shalom! Blessed Be!

Anonymous said...

The link to corcoran prison lists some infamous inmates. Have you ever worked with any of the more noteworthy inmates or celebrities?