Volunteer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates either directly or by contract all of the state correctional institutions in Texas, and most Catholic service programs conducted by volunteers in the Criminal Justice Ministry take place in TDCJ prison and jail units. Faith-based programs such as Catholic service pastoral care programs come under the authority of the Chaplaincy Department of the Rehabilitation Programs Division of the TDCJ.
To serve as an approved volunteer (whether clergy or lay) in a TDCJ correctional facility, one must first attend a 4-hour volunteer training orientation session. The sessions are conducted at various times and locations throughout the state, most commonly at TDCJ correctional units. Additional information and instructions on how to become an approved volunteer can be found on TDCJ’s Volunteer Services web page.
The Criminal Justice Ministry of the Diocese of Austin in conjunction with TDCJ’s Travis State Jail Unit hosts volunteer training sessions at either the diocesan Pastoral Center or a local Catholic parish facility. The dates and locations of these sessions for the 2017 calendar year are as follows:
January 14, 2017 St. Theresa Catholic Church, 4311 Small Dr., Austin, TX
April 15, 2017 Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center, 6225 Highway 290 E, Austin, TX
July 15, 2017 Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center, 6225 Highway 290 E, Austin, TX
October 28, 2017 Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center, 6225 Highway 290 E, Austin, TX
All sessions are scheduled from 12:00–4:00 PM, although they typically conclude sooner. It is necessary to arrive approximately 30 minutes before the session begins to process in. To register for any of these sessions, contact either the Office of the Criminal Justice Ministry of the Diocese (512-949-2460) or the Chaplain’s Office at the Travis Unit (512-926-4482).
It is important to realize that becoming an approved volunteer is only the first step towards serving in a TDCJ correctional facility. The next step is to contact the chaplain or volunteer coordinator of the facility in which you would like to serve. Placement of volunteers is based on the needs of the facility, needs of the offender population, space availability, existing program schedules, and the proposed volunteer activity. Volunteers may go to the TDCJ Unit Directory website for a list of units and contact information. The Office of the Criminal Justice Ministry can also provide assistance in identifying volunteer needs and opportunities within TDCJ units in the Diocese and coordinating volunteer access to those units.
It is not always necessary to become an approved volunteer. If the program or activity in which one wishes to participate is of an infrequent occurrence, that person may enter a TDCJ unit as a special volunteer. To do so still requires prior approval by the chaplain of the correctional facility in which the program or activity is to be conducted, and special volunteers are limited to four (4) visits statewide. Again, the Office of the Criminal Justice Ministry can assist with this process.