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Shining a Light: Chaplains Serve with Hope and Heart

CoreCivic | 3/30/23 8:00 AM

Studies show that faith-based programming is crucial for those impacted by incarceration or detention, as it can provide a sacrosanct outlet for healing that is unlike any other program. CoreCivic has an extensive team of chaplains on staff for this very reason: to help those in our care connect with the faith of their choice. Chaplain Steven Jackson at CoreCivic's Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Arizona, works daily with detainees in multiple faith-based initiatives to support them along their faith journeys.

Jackson was a farmer in the Eloy area before he went into ministry more than 20 years ago. He went back to school because he felt called to full-time ministry, and walked toward that calling. Jackson joined CoreCivic in 2019 as a program facilitator at CoreCivic's La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy and promoted later to the role of chaplain, transferring to Eloy Detention Center as its chaplain in 2022. Yet in his tenure at CoreCivic, he has worked fairly exclusively with men and women detainees who are awaiting their immigration proceedings.

"I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be as a chaplain," said Jackson. "In fact, I was given a vision where I was working directly with detainees in ministry before taking my first role at CoreCivic. I moved forward in pursuing corrections with that vision in mind, and here I am today leading men and women in Bible and other religious studies."

In addition to helping individuals in their spiritual walks, Jackson is also responsible for ensuring that detainees who have religious dietary restrictions, such as Kosher or vegetarian, receive meals that accommodate their diets appropriately. Currently, there are 48 different religious diet accommodations managed by Jackson for detainees.

"Correctional chaplaincy is night and day different than ministry in the free world," he shared. "Some think corrections is a scary place to work, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The individuals I serve at Eloy are very caring and loving, and it's a joy to walk alongside them on their faith journeys."

Jackson shared that some detainees he's served through his chaplaincy roles at CoreCivic have returned back to their countries of origin to pursue ministry themselves.

"It's rewarding and motivating to have the opportunity to witness the magnificent life and heart transformations that these individuals undergo," Jackson said.

CoreCivic strives to help individuals maintain meaningful connections to the faith of their choice by providing religious services, resources, and opportunities. Chaplains rely on a robust network of volunteers and religious resource groups to ensure a variety of faiths are accommodated for those in our care. This allows individuals to continue growing in their faith as they prepare for their next step in life with hope and purpose.

There are currently seven religions practiced and recognized at Eloy today.

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