Peeking into Keen Mountain Correctional Center
So often, we don’t get to see what is happening behind bars. Yet, you are making amazing things happen – both little and HUGE! Thank you. Not everyone is called by God to work behind the bars – but Chaplain Paul Ritter is. Here, he shares some stories from behind the bars.
“Every Wednesday I spend in segregation and with the STAR program. One offender in particular would not keep his clothes on and would come to the door unclothed. He had a history of doing this at other facilities (which explains why he was at Keen Mountain). He did this for male Correctional Officers (CO) and female counselors, Nurses and psychologists.
One Wednedsay, I stood outside his door and talked to him for some time. I then had prayer with him and gave him a Bible (following personal property protocol). The next week I went to segregation, again. The CO in the unit asked, “What did you say to Mr. J?” “Why?”, I asked. “You’ll see.”, he said. When I went to see Mr. J., I saw him clothed and reading the bible I had given him the previous week. Like the Gaderene demoniac, I saw him clothed and in his right mind. We talked and prayed together. As I left the CO said, “After your visit last week, he put his orange jump suit back on and had kept it on all week, even for his counselor and nurses.”
Mr. T is a low functioning offender in segregation. He is very quiet and unassuming. He would be a “target” in general population because of his mental status. When I first met Mr. T he did not come to the door to speak to me. I learned that his reading level was not very good, so I found a graphic Bible, a Bible like a comic book, for him to use. As the weeks progressed, and I spent time with him, Mr. T became more outgoing. He is now in the STAR program ready to come to into general population.
One Friday afternoon I received word that an offender’s mother had passed away. He was just six months from release having served a 10 year sentence. He was heartbroken because he did not get out to see his mother. I spent time with him, prayed with him, spend time explaining the grieving process so he could recognize how he would be feeling. He came away from that experience changed with a more healthy outlook. Because I was there it mattered. The Unit Manager expressed appreciation for my skills in working with the offender.”
The Chaplain’s Bible Study is held during program time. I am teaching Lectio Divina, Centering prayer and the Daily Office to get men in the routine of praying throughout the day.
Staff and offenders call me many things at Keen Mountain. I am known as Chaplain, pastor, Padre, Father. Because I use my clergy collar as my uniform, it identifies me as the facility Holy Man, connecting offenders and staff with God. At Keen Mountain I have role that is different from that of counselor, or psychologist, physician, nurse, or corrections officer. I call people to their spiritual center – helping them to shape their lives. I offer spiritual food to the spiritually hungry; spiritual water to the spiritually thirsty.”
We are grateful for all you do, Chaplain Ritter! Thank you. YOU are GraceInside!