Posts Tagged ‘pastoral care’

It is a lonely place

August 20, 2011

“You have no idea what it’s like,” he said to me tearfully.

“What’s that?”

“Being sick, really sick, and all alone.”

A small row of locked rooms comprises the infirmary at the prison. There is no one in the hall, no sounds, not even the murmur of a TV through the solid steel doors.

A correctional officer will come and open a door if I would like to enter for a brief visit.

Some offenders are quarantined if they are contagious. Conversations with those men are held at the door if they can get up and come over. Nothing spreads faster than an illness in a prison, plus one never knows who within the population has a compromised immune system.

Others may be segregated from contact due to unpredictable or violent behavior. Again, those are best held at the door.

Those who are terminal have daily attention from any one of several hospice-trained prisoners, a dedicated group of grace-filled workers. I can visit them as well.

But most in the infirmary are there for a short time, are safe, and can be visited. I don’t stay long, communion may be desired. Emotions are always just below the surface, especially when I ask if I may give them a blessing.

Yes, it is a lonely place, and, yes, I have no idea what it’s like.

We’ll see how that goes

January 13, 2009

As 2008 wrapped up, I thought some sort of sabbatical would be in order, maybe six months off from prison ministry. Burnout is always a risk in pastoral care. Vigilance is of the utmost importance.

Six months, though, seemed too long, and I feared that intimidation would slowly creep back in. After all, it took nearly two years before my stomach stopped tightening as I turned down the final road and approached the prison. It isn’t the population of felons that causes the intimidation. It is the place itself.  Being confronted with nine locked and remotely controlled doors before I stand at the final door … a cell door … gets under one’s skin. Hand scans and showing an ID along with signing in from time to time serve as a further reminder of the ultra-secure monitoring of my every move throughout the complex.

So, perhaps every other month for the entire year. That notion lasted until an offender asked when he would see me again. February didn’t seem a very warm answer as the holidays drew near.

Therefore, no sabbatical this go around. Not even a lessening of the number of visits. I am, however, reducing the load per visit. We’ll see how that goes.