March 22nd, 2011 at 12:41 pm
Texas lawmakers are facing difficult decisions as they struggle with how to respond to a roughly $20 billion state budget deficit. They are looking at various ways to cut the budget in order to bring it in line with income.
One of the areas lawmakers are considering eliminating funding for is professional prison chaplains, which serve as the gateway for church volunteers to minister in prisons. Initially, professional chaplains were cut from the budget proposal. Latest news indicates Reps. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, and John Otto, R-Dayton, have successfully led the effort to put it back into the budget, but political pressure is needed to help make sure prison chaplains stay there.
The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission is working to help lawmakers understand the critical role prison chaplains and is asking Texas Baptists to help them by contacting their respective representatives.
Here are a few important points the CLC makes to legislators:
- Chaplains actually save the state more money than they receive. By changing lives and turning people away from lives of crime, the state has to spend less money on caring for prisoners. Research indicates professional chaplains lower recidivism rates by at least 50 percent, improve inmate behavior and serve as resources to offenders and prison staff members.
- Chaplains also serve as the gateway for more than 18,000 volunteers who minister in prisons each year, continually recruiting and training them to help change the lives of inmates. Roughly 400 new volunteers serve in prison each month as a result of chaplains’ efforts. When the prison chaplaincy program suffered cuts in 2003, the number of volunteers significantly decreased. Eliminating prison chaplains entirely potentially could cripple the number of volunteers that serve in prisons – the same volunteers proponents of the cut want to hand the program over to.
- Prison chaplains are charged with protecting inmates’ Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of religious exercise. They are trained to do that and carry it out well.
For more information about how to engage legislators on this issue, call the CLC at 512-473-2288. To find out who your representatives are, click here.