Helping Hidden Heroes: Chaplains for Correctional Staff — Emotions, Health, and Retention

Helping Hidden Heroes: Chaplains for Correctional Staff — Emotions, Health, and Retention
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-07-25
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Helping Hidden Heroes: Chaplains for Correctional Staff — Emotions, Health, and Retention
Unit 2Transcript: Helping Hidden Heroes: Chaplains for Correctional Staff — Emotions, Health, and Retention
Unit 3Workbook: Helping Hidden Heroes: Chaplains for Correctional Staff — Emotions, Health, and Retention
Unit 4Recording: Helping Hidden Heroes: Chaplains for Correctional Staff — Emotions, Health, and Retention

Chaplains have been significantly utilized in the corrections setting to provide inmates with support and guidance to set them up for success. Correctional staff, being exposed to the same environment alongside toughened criminals and often unseen and unappreciated by the public, however, aren’t given as much support and guidance. This webinar explores how chaplains can be leveraged to support correctional staff and how the Cook County Jail implemented such a program exclusive to its staff members.

This discussion is led by  Linda Ahrens, a volunteer roving chaplain to the staff at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Chicago and also the chaplain of the American Jail Association. Linda received the National Sheriffs Association’s Chaplain of the Year Award in June 2003.

Specifics of Linda’s presentation include:

  • Who the hidden heroes are and how demanding work in the correctional setting impacts the organization’s staff levels, retention, and recruitment and leads to wellness and health issues on staff.
  • The support structure offered by Cook County to its inmates and staff and how they transitioned from solely providing chaplains to inmates to offering their services to staff as well.
  • What a chaplain does and how having one can benefit corrections staff.
  • How the roving volunteer chaplain for staff was received and beliefs that serve as barriers from implementing such programs more widely.
  • Comparing the duties as well as time-off of correction staff to court deputies and street patrol to highlight…
    • How demanding the correction staff’s work is, if not more compared to the other two.
    • How less visible correction staff’s work is to the public which leaves them unappreciated and unsupported.
    • How correction staff need and deserve as much support as their counterparts.
  • Objections and questions raised by different entities on implementing a chaplain program for corrections staff in terms of…
    • The need for a dedicated chaplain for staff instead of just utilizing the inmate chaplains as well.
    • Utilizing volunteer chaplains instead of employed chaplains and their availability.
    • How the program may cannibalize support from inmates.
  • How having volunteer roving chaplains addresses potential concerns on budget, manpower, confidentiality, rapport, accessibility, and stigma.
  • The mechanics of implementing a roving chaplain program.
    • Starting with designating staff to oversee the chaplains and the program.
    • How a chaplain connects and works with the correction staff.
    • Challenges that a chaplain may encounter when working with staff as it relates to skepticism, inmates, and covering all shifts and divisions.
    • Selling the idea to the agency by testing it first and emphasizing that costs will be shouldered by the faith body and its benefits to employee morale and retention.
    • Determining the qualities and requirements of a chaplain, finding candidates, assessing, and selecting the volunteers.
    • Guidelines when launching the chaplain.
  • Resources from the American Jail Association and Desert Waters to serve as guide when implementing a chaplain for staff program.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • Where to access the resources and leaflets.
  • Managing the correction staff’s different shifts.
  • Who pays for the roving chaplains.
  • Confidentiality concerns for civilian chaplains.
  • Whether non-religious staff can also benefit from chaplains.
  • Resources, training, and other preparation required to implement the roving volunteer chaplain program.


 During this Webinar You’ll Learn about:

  • The need for and value of having on-site, roving, volunteer chaplains who solely support correctional staff
  • Why it’s not optimum to have volunteers who support inmates to also support correctional staff
  • How chaplains-for-staff complement EAP and Peer Support
  • How to launch, maintain, and grow a no-cost chaplain-for-staff program at your facility


Click here to register and view other Jail/Corrections-related webinars and recordings on the JCH website.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “It’s great that this often overlooked group is being seen for its value.” — Angie
  • “The resources at as well as the availability of the presenter.” — Toni
  • “Unseen heroes do need Spiritual guidance to give hope while serving this heavy task calling. God bless us all. Thank you.” — Faith
  • “The concept and the resources to present to admin to get started!!! This was GREAT.” — Lisa




This webinar is part of the JCH Summer School Program. From June 1-August 31, 2023, attendees will receive a certificate of attendance via email about one hour after the conclusion of a webinar.

Want to join us for other Summer School webinars? Check out our Summer School Calendar and register today!



The American Jail Association (AJA) is a national, nonprofit organization that supports the professionals who operate our Nation’s jails. It is the only national association that focuses exclusively on issues specific to the operations of local correctional facilities. The driving force behind the phenomenal growth of AJA is its members. AJA has taken a leadership role in developing the type of programs that promote the professional growth of the dedicated men and women who operate our Nation’s jails.  Jail staff have the responsibility for the management of people who have been charged with violating our laws and often mock the ideals on which AJA was founded. Jail personnel find themselves sorely tested each day in the jail environment when they receive scorn and derision for their loyalty and perseverance under extremely trying circumstances.  AJA takes this opportunity to salute the jail staff of the Nation who, by their dedication to the difficult task of local corrections, have made a vital, positive difference to the welfare of the communities they serve.  Click here to learn more about AJA. 



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