This week I’m working on something very very important!
The American Correctional Association which sets the standards for all correctional systems in the United States, is currently working on creating a standard for qualifications for Administrators who oversee prison religion programs. There is strong conversation in their corner, that training in religious pluralism or a background in world religions is not necessary to be hired to oversee religion programs in state and federal prisons. And if they are successful in pushing forward that position in the next few months, it will take a decade or so to turn it around!
As one of the foremost experts in the country on this subject (as founder and Director of the National Correctional Chaplaincy Directors Association and as the Minority Faith Issues Chair for the American Correctional Chaplains Association, and with over 20 years advising over twenty separate states prison systems on accommodating religious diversity in prisons) I am appalled that such a viewpoint could even be on the table. As a result, I must now once again take on the whole system to keep twenty years of hard work from being reversed.
There is no way a person can possibly oversee religion programs in government institutions without appropriate training. In fact, it has been the very lack of such training that has clearly caused so many years of discrimination toward minority faiths.
The one good point in our corner, is that the American Correctional Chaplains Association is expressing that religion administrators must at least have chaplaincy training. While this is helpful, it falls far short of what’s really required. The reason for this is that most chaplains in the United States are either Catholic or Protestant with a much smaller number of Jews and Muslims in the background, and they, with all of their well meaning, are far from understanding the issues faced by minorities.
In the end, the problem will only be solved by hiring a significant number of minority faith chaplains, and by forcing religion administrators to be well educated in diversity training, religious pluralism, and the world religions.
I am now constructing letters to and contacting key individuals in the American Correctional Association and other agencies to build a case to stop this in its tracks. Wish me luck.
If you’ve got it to spare, send me good energy on this one. There are very few individuals taking this fight on, and as most of you know, I already have a very full plate!