Corrections officers highlight spiritual side of prison work

Preachers remind their colleagues to be light amid darkness

May 09, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Being a corrections officer is a difficult, dangerous job, supervising some of society's most violent criminals each day with little time for spiritual reflection.

But for 90 minutes yesterday, at the Central Booking and Intake Center downtown, more than 100 corrections officials gathered to buoy themselves with Scripture, singing, and preaching by officers with a second calling.

"I want to say to my fellow corrections officers, don't ever let anybody put you down for being a corrections officer, because this is the place God has deemed you to be," said Elder Melvin Easley, who attends Refuge Way of the Cross Church in Waverly.

"Somebody had to be the light in the midst of darkness," said Easley, a correctional officer at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

The service, titled The Gospel Hour, was one of a series of events commemorating Public Safety and Correctional Services Week at the detention center and the state's other prison facilities.

"We've started something new. We're going to have this Gospel Hour from now until the end of time," said Commissioner LaMont W. Flanagan, head of pretrial detention and services. "You can separate the state and religion, but you can't separate the state from spirituality."

The service highlighted the spiritual leadership in the ranks of the state's corrections officers. Many are ministers or elders in their churches, and they took the opportunity to show off some preaching pyrotechnics that had the mostly uniformed congregation standing, shouting and stamping on the wooden bleachers of the gymnasium in the top floor of the Central Booking and Intake Center.

Pamela Griffin, a social worker in the Baltimore City Detention Center, noted that under different circumstances, it could be officers behind bars in prison jumpsuits.

"We give you honor and we give you glory, because we know, O God, we too could be in the same predicament," Griffin, an assistant pastor at Christ Temple in West Baltimore, prayed in an invocation. "Everyone here, dear God, has a special purpose."

Roxanne Greene, a minister at the River of Life Christian Center in Northeast Baltimore, reminded her colleagues that they must recall their spiritual commitment, even when dealing with the most difficult of inmates.

"When you do your job, you're going to do an excellent job because that's what you're supposed to do," said Greene, a sergeant in the recreational program. "You need to make sure what comes out of your mouth is sanctified and glorified, and does not tear down or belittle."

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