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Chaplain Perspective: Serving with Honesty and Compassion at Torrance County Detention Facility

CoreCivic | 4/25/24 8:19 AM

By Gary Barricklow, Chaplain, Torrance County Detention Facility

It’s fitting that the word “minister” comes from the Latin for servant. As chaplain at CoreCivic’s Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico, I’m called – and blessed – to serve the unique needs of people of all faiths who are experiencing challenging times. Many of them are going through the U.S. immigration system.

To serve is the fundamental nature of a chaplain’s work. Every morning, I visit Torrance's housing units with the goal of getting to all of them at least once a week. This provides an opportunity for anyone in our care to ask for what they need – whether that’s a holy text in their native language, prayer beads or an actual prayer on their behalf.

These regular visits provide not only the opportunity to minister to the spiritual needs of the people at the facility, but also take time to hear and care for what they may be walking through at this time of their lives.

As a service provider to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it is our duty to care for these detainees as they undergo the immigration process. Basic needs are all taken care of – three meals a day, clothing, hygiene products, medical, and mental health care. Laundry is done regularly and at no cost to detainees. Special diets, both medical and religious, are accommodated. Legal and consular access is provided. The facilities are clean and well-maintained. And as a maintenance professional at a major retailer for nearly a decade before being called to the ministry, I especially appreciate the standard of cleanliness my colleagues and I uphold here at Torrance.

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I also see how my colleagues treat the individuals in our care. They, too, work in the service of others. Every day, I witness professionals doing their best to create a safe, humane, dignified environment in our facility. A lot of these folks go out of their way to not just do their jobs but to make the lives of those we care for better.

The experience of detainees in our care at Torrance is something I care about deeply. Of course, facilities like Torrance didn’t create the immigration system we have in this country, nor do we enforce immigration laws or control migration patterns.

But we do have an important role to play in treating people with human dignity as they go through the immigration process. And we take this role seriously—every single day.

Dignity is fostered on a personal level, and we work hard to instill it in every interaction. In a recent Bible study led by a colleague at a nearby facility, there was a discussion about the need to – and indeed the opportunities to – feel loved and cared for while in a secure facility. At Torrance, we lived out that love and care at a recent communion service where detainees not only came for the sacrament but also asked to be prayed for individually. In these and many other ways, we’re striving to serve those in our care and lift them up as they prepare for whatever’s next in their journey.

Immigration is one of the most complex and deeply personal issues our country faces. Unfortunately, instead of having a thoughtful, truth-filled discussion, the debate often devolves into blanket criticisms of the people and places simply serving those going through the existing immigration process. My hope is that this issue can grow into a more productive conversation about people who we should all care about on a fundamental human level.

This year, my prayer is that the conversation around immigration might pivot to one with more honesty and less rhetoric. At Torrance, we will continue to serve those in our care with love, compassion, humility, and dignity.

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Topics: Reducing Recidivism, News, Keeping People Safe