When you are the sole chaplain in a jail housing more than 700 inmates and responsible for serving the faith needs of five different religions, a little help goes a long way. Lee Dixon, Chaplaincy Department Head at Citrus County Detention Facility in Lecanto, Florida, certainly receives support from the 50 volunteers who work with him to provide 16 religious services a week. But he also gets a little help from the Order of Malta, which provides Order of Malta Bibles and prayer books to the facility. “You guys have always been Johnny-on-the-spot,” Chaplain Dixon said. “We have a need for Catholic supplies here, and you fill the order.”
Citrus County is a private jail where most of the inmates are housed temporarily while waiting for trial. In addition to supervising the religious services, Chaplain Dixon handles requests for religious articles, books, and even religious dietary requirements. He also manages the re-entry process and one-on-one counseling.
According to Chaplain Dixon, the fact that the facility is the first-place inmates land after being arrested presents a particular challenge. “There are more suicides in jails than in prisons because of the initial shock of incarceration,” he said. “However, there is also opportunity. You’re reaching them when they are in a place of deep remorse and initial repentance, a time when they are open to the message of the Gospel.”
That’s where the Order of Malta Bibles and prayer books program comes in. “The inmates are very grateful that we care enough about them to provide these invaluable print resources,” he said. Chaplain Dixon is also grateful for the books. “There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction, knowing that we are able to go above and beyond to meet their religious needs.”
If you would like to learn more about the American Association’s Prison Ministry programs, please email Craig Gibson, Chair of the Prison Ministry Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.