Having been in the church all my life and coming from a long line of ministers and educators, I was born to be a pastor. Along the way, God called me to pastor among incarcerated people.
As a chaplain at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, operated by CoreCivic on behalf of the state of Tennessee, I help care for 2,200 men. Before that, I was chaplain at CoreCivic’s Cibola County Correctional Center and the largest county jail in New Mexico. Coming to Trousdale gave me a chance to return home to Nashville and middle Tennessee, and it’s been a beautiful opportunity to serve these men.
In a recent Op-ed, I noticed that some of my fellow clergy have been pushed by critics to take issue with CoreCivic. But they don’t know the hearts of the people I work with. If they did, they might have a different view.
After the pandemic, I invite my brothers and sisters in the faith community to visit me at Trousdale and experience for themselves the life-changing work we’re doing. I suspect many of them have never been inside a CoreCivic facility. Until then, I want to share what I see every day.
I start my morning with a few colleagues on a 4:00 a.m. prayer call. It’s a chance for us to intercede on behalf of our inmates and staff, and lift up any concerns we have. We believe prayer changes situations and it changes people.
During the day, I have an open-door policy. The men in our care know I’m available to them no matter their faith, or lack thereof. I also walk the facility and try to get to all the housing pods. With COVID-19, we’ve had to change our approach to offering faith-based programming, but we’ve gotten creative by developing opportunities like small-group, spiritual concerns classes with no more than 10 men, all socially distanced.
One of our most successful partnerships is with the Nashville-based organization Men of Valor. While nationally more than 70 percent of people released from prison will return, the recidivism rate for those who complete Men of Valor’s Bible-based program is less than 15 percent. I’m proud that CoreCivic has supported this transformative organization for more than 15 years.
I’m also proud of CoreCivic’s work to reduce recidivism across the board, including unprecedented commitments to reentry programming and support for recidivism-reducing policies. I see these efforts through the work of my colleagues who help men further their education, learn vocational skills and address challenges with addiction. I want everyone, especially people of faith, to know we’re focused on helping those in our care stay out of prison for good, and we take it seriously.
I love my job because I genuinely love people. I believe this work is true to my mission in service of Christ, and if we are truly His followers, we will focus on building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
I would encourage my brothers and sisters in the faith community to see the common values and goals we share. We all have a passion for people’s souls, and we are working every day to help those who are hurting and broken find hope. For, as we know, there is hope in the Lord, and with Him is abundant redemption.
Pastor Quinton T. Fletcher is a chaplain at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, Tennessee. He earned a Doctor of Ministry at United Theological Seminary.