Let’s face it. Movies and TV shows about women in prison have become a popular genre and actually a cultural phenomenon in America. Much of this “entertainment” centers around salacious and unseemly (and highly sexualized) content. The female inmates portrayed tend to be stereotypes and caricatures, usually NOT the women one would encounter in an actual jail or prison (since – after all – every human being is utterly unique). The storylines focus on “relationships” between inmates, between inmates and staff, etc. Staff members, too, are generally stereotypes and caricatures – and usually are the worst possible examples of what a correctional staff member could be.
The REALITY is that incarcerated women are very much like other women you know (in your family, amongst your relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members, etc.). Most do not look like superstars or runway models. Most look like you and me. Let’s be honest: They are not there for picking daisies for their Sunday school teachers. They have committed crimes (on in many cases have taken plea deals – i.e. at least “pled” guilty to avoid long sentences that would take them away from their children and families for many years). Yes, the vast majority of them are mothers – usually of minor children. Also the vast majority of them have or have had substance abuse issues and/or mental health issues. A great number of them grew up in abusive homes and have been in abusive relationships throughout their lives. Most have tremendous self-esteem problems. Many have been shamed or rejected by their own families, friends, neighbors, communities, churches, etc. Most of them experience almost continuous grief, anxiety and depression – usually over being separated from their children. If ANYONE in this word ever needed comfort, compassion, hope and a reason for living, it is certainly these women. Most are very hungry spiritually, and they long to connect or reconnect to God and to a faith community.
This is where PRISON CHAPLAINCY comes in – as a critical part of the healing and rehabilitative process for incarcerated women. GraceInside has Chaplains at each of the state’s women’s correctional facilities.
But the state’s largest women’s prison by far is Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW), with an inmate population that hovers around 1,000 at any given time. How can a Chaplain even BEGIN to meet the tremendous spiritual needs of so many hurting women??? It certainly isn’t easy. It takes an individual with a special calling and just the right spiritual gifts from God to take on this kind of challenging ministry or “mission field.” This is a brief profile/interview with THE individual that serves as Chaplain at FCCW. We hope that you will find her brief testimony here to be both educational and inspiring.
JERUSHA MOSES serves as the full-time Chaplain at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW). She is an amazing individual. Jerusha grew up in India – the child of native Christian pastors/missionaries. She has lived in North America for many years (and obtained a number of educational degrees in numerous fields – including ministry!), but for numerous and complex reasons, she is still continuing the process of being granted full American citizenship. We believe that God brought Jerusha and GraceInside together at “just the right time” for her and for us (and for the women at FCCW). Her dedication and chaplaincy skills are top-notch, and working full-time for GraceInside will hopefully help her to soon obtain her full citizenship. Staying here in America is especially important because of her young daughter, who is a childhood cancer survivor. Jerusha wants to be sure that her daughter has the best medical treatment possible should there ever be a need again. Keep her in your prayers!!!
The following is a brief testimony from Jerusha about her chaplaincy ministry at FCCW:
“I began work at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in 2019. I went from 20 hours a week – to 30 hours a week – and finally to 40 hours a week (full-time). I found out very quickly that the spiritual and religious programming needs of the women at FCCW are great – and that this would be a VERY challenging and demanding ministry. So God has truly blessed me in gradually increasing my hours to full-time. It is still hard for me to believe and take in that I am the Chaplain at the largest women’s prison in the state! But it is truly a blessing. God has given me a love for these women, and I can’t even imagine serving or ministering anywhere else.
“Fluvanna has EVERY kind of inmate. We have young women and older women. We have many different races, cultures and religions. We go from minimum/medium security level all the way to maximum security level. We of course have many women housed in the “general population” buildings of the prison. But we also have a very large medical and mental health housing unit. Additionally, we constantly have women coming in and out of “restorative housing” (special housing often used for disciplinary issues, protective custody, etc.). The “campus” is quite large, with the living units and general purpose buildings spread out. One does have to get used to a LOT of walking. We also have a HUGE number of different religious groups that meet on a regular basis, and I have to coordinate all of these programs. I am blessed to have probably the largest group of Religious Volunteers in the state, and they help out SO much with coordinating and leading these programs.
“There are some especially intense tasks, duties and moments that stand out and that will likely always be a part of my memories. One example is when I am called on to meet with a woman to share bad news (or provide pastoral care after such bad news has been shared). This can be a scary medical diagnosis, a death in the inmate’s family, a child that has run away or been hurt, etc. Some people may find this unusual, but when an inmate cannot attend the final rites or funeral service of a deceased loved one, I hold a special service for the woman inside the facility in which I speak, lead special music, etc. One ministry that I really love is the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree ministry, when I get to gather request forms from the mothers about gifts and tangible ways they can show their love to their children during the Christmas season. I also enjoy processing requests from the women for hygiene kits at Christmas (which local church groups donate, help put together and help distribute).
“Yes, sometimes it can feel OVERWHELMING or IMPOSSIBLE to try to reach out and meet the spiritual needs of SO MANY incarcerated women. But that’s when I remind myself that I have HELP!!! Help from the Lord, and help from the many faithful volunteers that care for these women enough to come in to lead programs and help in other practical ways. I also continually give thanks to the many generous DONORS (individuals, churches and denominations) that give to GraceInside and make my ministry and my FULL-TIME hours possible!
“I like to think of it this way, especially in this beautiful season of spring: Our God made the heavens and the earth – all of this wonder and all of this beauty, and that includes each and every woman and man on the planet, including those that are INCARCERATED. He has not stopped loving them. He has not tossed them aside. He has not given up hope for them. And NEITHER SHOULD WE!!! What a joyful, wonderful opportunity God has given me – to serve these incarcerated women that live in a ‘mission field’ that is all too often forgotten, even by caring believers.”
Love in Christ Jesus,
Chaplain Jerusha Moses
Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women
What Jerusha shared is the perfect example and embodiment of GraceInside’s 2022 Easter Campaign theme: “REBIRTH – A Living Hope!”
The women at FCCW need to hear about, know and experience God’s amazing grace in Christ Jesus. And they need the JOY that comes with REBIRTH. They especially desperately need that LIVING HOPE that only God’s love can give them!
Won’t you prayerfully consider a special EASTER OFFERING to GraceInside to help us place MORE CHAPLAINS at and provide MORE MINISTRY HOURS for the Chaplains in our state prisons? YOU hold the key to sharing this “REBIRTH – A Living Hope!”