Friendship for a Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime?

A prison psychologist, also known as a QMHP (Qualified Mental Health Provider), is a key staff member. However, it is a rare thing when a former QMHP transitions from a mental health career to prison chaplaincy. Rarer still is when a former QMHP, now a Chaplain, becomes reacquainted with a former inmate client, and both persons are employed by the same prison ministry. These are the blessings showered upon Dr. Claudette Rodney, Chaplain at Beaumont Correctional Center and Central Region Supervising Chaplain, and Lee Hargrave, Office Manager at GraceInside.

Claudette previously served as a Psychologist Senior for the S-3 Unit at Greensville Correctional Center. She managed care for the Unit’s 1,000 male inmates. From 2001-2009, Lee attended Claudette’s support group. He grew from the experience, mentally and spiritually, and credits Claudette’s therapy with critically-needed support, including insights and strategies for successfully returning to civilian life.

Called to the ministry, Claudette began the ordination process with her denomination, completed a Masters of Divinity degree, and became a religious volunteer for the prison worship services. As a longtime Chapel Clerk on the S-3 Unit, Lee encouraged Claudette in her journey.

Through a series of miraculous events, Lee was granted parole in late 2009. Having been denied for 22 consecutive years, he had lost hope. When his Counselor delivered his 2009 parole reply days before Thanksgiving, he was thunderstruck. He carried the document to the group meeting and handed it to Claudette. The other inmates were astonished when she paced the room praising God for His Goodness and Grace. It was an undeniable moment of the Spirit.

Some years later, Claudette made a sacrificial decision to retire early and embark on a second career with GraceInside. Her duties took her to a number of prisons before she became Chaplain at Beaumont Correctional Center. She was also promoted to serve as the Central Region Supervising Chaplain, overseeing Chaplains at 15 state prison facilities.

Claudette and Lee reunited at the Annual Chaplains’ Training Retreat in 2016. It was another powerful moment of the Spirit. Claudette has since offered Lee pastoral care (upon the deaths of his parents), and provided sound financial and practical counsel. In 2022, Claudette, Lee and Chaplain Lisa Brown (Haynesville Correctional Complex) traveled to Philadelphia for a worship event/river cruise organized by Claudette’s congregation. At Thanksgiving at the same year, Claudette and Lee traveled to Manhattan for a few days. This was Lee’s first experience of New York.

Who would think that a long-term prisoner would be blessed with the care of a mental health professional that treated her clients as children of God? Who can believe that this professional would be called to prison ministry? Who would comprehend the divine handiwork involved in reuniting the former QMHP and inmate client in GraceInside’s service? Claudette advised her group members that friendship endures for a season, a reason or a lifetime, and she challenged the inmates to question themselves about their own relationships. In this instance, God truly answered that question!

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