In October 2019 Texas Prison Chaplains received a Chaplain’s Packet to introduce them to the course, but I am incapable of meeting the demand to teach in all their Units. Therefore, we are seeking to partner with Volunteers to help establish this course in each of the 107 Texas prisons. Volunteers receive training and access to all materials, including an electronic version of the workbook to copy at will for the inmates. Since TDCJ provides no funding for Faith-Based programs, volunteers need to raise support or partner with their local church to purchase the books ($5.00 ea) and print the workbooks. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the Prison Chaplains that herald the course and encourage our efforts.

From left to right; Chaplain James McNeil of the Tulia Unit, Chaplain Mike McCreight of the Montfort Unit, Chaplain Scales of the Jordan Unit, Region 5 Chaplain, William Day, and Chaplain David Voyles of the Wheeler/Formby Units in Plainview.

Prison Chaplains are remarkable people. They must provide unbiased assistance to men of every faith and are relentless documentarians. I have grown to appreciate these men for the joy in which they carry out their responsibility and the love they have for the inmates. Nancy and I met these Region 5 Chaplains, in May 2019 at their local conference in Plainview and then again in October 2019 at the Statewide Chaplains Conference in Huntsville, during which they passed out 120 Chaplains Packets to all the Chaplains throughout the State. The Chaplains Packet includes a book, workbook, the flyer and certificate, the critical TDCJ Proposal information, a poem, and our contact information. This course is entirely dependent upon the cooperation and scheduling of TDCJ Prison Chaplains. As volunteers, we are there to serve the Chaplains agenda of ministry to the inmates in their Unit. Below are some of the Volunteers who have embraced the responsibility to teach Taking Anger Seriously in their local jail or prison. While many of the volunteers are recommended by the Chaplains, others have come along more “organically.”

Nancy and I were eating breakfast, July 13, 2019, at Singleton Farms, an “organic” breakfast nook, in our home town of Pilot Point. The restaurant was owned by Catherine’s daughter, Lisa. Catherine was our hostess when Nancy excitedly mentioned our upcoming trip to the Clements Unit in Amarillo. Catherine told us her son ministers at a prison in Lubbock. She pulled out her phone and called her son Darren Grimes, and handed me the phone! Talking with Darren, I learned that he was a volunteer for my dear friend, Chaplain Mike McCreight, at the Montfort Unit in Lubbock. On August 2, I met with Chaplain McCreight, Darren, and Walt Stokes, the lead volunteer at the Rudd Unit. Later when Darren was in town he and his mother paid us a visit at our home.

Darren Grimes will teach Taking Anger Seriously in the Montfort Unit and Walt Stokes will teach it in the Rudd Unit. It doesn’t get more organic than that.

I met Chaplain Mike McCreight 7 months prior in Lubbock. I am grateful to Chaplain McCreight for heralding the course within his region, providing the first opportunity to teach the three-day course in prison.

My dear friend, Pastor John Acrey has a wonderful gift of exhortation. He is an Evangelist in South Dallas who is always spurring others to walk with Jesus Christ. He equips others to serve and has taught Taking Anger Seriously online and will teach it at the Hutchins Unit in South Dallas. I am proud to be his friend and deeply grateful for his loving support.

Rick and Terri Collie are a wonderful couple. They are both meek and share a passion to lift the lowly. They make a perfect team for teaching Taking Anger Seriously in the Sayles Unit in Breckenridge TX.

I love you guys…

Sha Lewis is a veteran of ministry to inmates. Most notably, she began her ministry years ago in the Angola State Penitentiary in Lousiana. She teaches the twelve steps in several units and has yet another iron in the fire, teaching Taking Anger Seriously in the Terrell Unit (in the background) in Rosharon TX. She is an extraordinary woman with a beautiful story of raising several children who were not her own. May the Lord bless “all” her labors.

Ron Papa is a Certified Chaplain Assistant for the Darrington, Wayne Scott, Clemens, and Terrell Units in South Texas. He has a servant’s heart and loves bringing men to faith in Jesus Christ. He is doing a wonderful job teaching Taking Anger Seriously in his perspective units. Brother Papa, your gracious labors are inspiring. May the Lord give you souls.

I am grateful for Chaplain Debra Aku of the Terrell Unit in Rosharon for her support of the Taking Anger Seriously course in her unit.

Marjorie Fitzgerald has a doctoral degree in counseling from American Bible College in Oklahoma. She has worked in Mobile Crisis for 14 years, private practice, and the criminal justice field. She is currently working as a mental health specialist in Denton County Jail.
Her extraordinary life experiences have provided her a great capacity to console hurting people. Among her many responsibilities, she teaches the Twelve Steps and Taking Anger Seriously
I am so grateful for Marjorie’s initiative and encouraging support. Men are leaving the Jail with their Taking Anger Seriously Certificates in hand.

The Field Minister Program

There is a program in Texas designed to put God behind bars.

Angola, the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary had been a hotbed of violence, but Charles Kelly, head of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, had overseen the induction of a four-year program that resulted in great change in the Lousiana prison. Charles Kelly happened to be the brother-in-law of Dr. Paige Patterson, former President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. It was over dinner that Charles Kelly told Dr. Patterson about Angola. Jokingly he said, “I didn’t deserve to go to heaven if I didn’t do the same thing in Texas.” Joking aside, Patterson took it to heart.

Eventually, Dr. Patterson met Grove Norwood, founder, and CEO of the Heart of Texas Foundation, a nonprofit that works to provide Christian teachings to long-term inmates. Norwood then introduced Patterson to Texas Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) and soon they organized a three-day trip to Louisiana to see the program in person. Everyone came away impressed. “I knew what kind of prison Angola had been, and it was like moving from the center of a storm to a peaceful haven,” Patterson said. “You knew something miraculous had happened.” After holding hands and praying, Whitmire recalled, they made a decision: “Let’s go to Texas.”

With legislators, prison officials, and the seminary all on board, it didn’t take long to cut through the red tape. The Darrington Unit, a maximum-security prison in Brazoria County, also a notorious unit, plagued by violence and unrest was selected as the home of a non-denominational theological seminary funded by the non-profit Heart of Texas Foundation but run by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

To qualify, would-be students must have high school diplomas or GEDs, clean disciplinary records for the past year, and at least 10 years left until their earliest possible release dates. For four years they study rhetoric, Western civilization, health science, and foremost, the Bible. The students hole up in the library together and take full-time classes instead of holding prison jobs.

By 2011, the first class of future ministers began their studies. After the fourth graduation class, in 2018, there were 180 seminary graduates. By 2024, there will be field ministers on hand in all 104 Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons. The Darrington Theological Seminary has become a model for other states, which have sent high-ranking corrections officials to look in on the Lone Star State’s success. “We’re doing it, and we’re doing it in ways that no other country or state in the world has done it,” said Grove Norwood.

Texas Sen. John Whitmire bends down to talk to Darrington Seminary Program Student Michael Mbugua before its fourth graduating class on Monday, May 7, 2018

As the Graduates walked across the stage, they sang, tossed their caps, and flipped their tassels. It had all the elements of a traditional graduation mixed in with a little rapping and a very Texas Sermon involving a mishap with a bear along the border.

After their 4 year degree, the graduating class is sent out in two’s to other prisons across the state to do God’s work as Field Ministers. In coordination with the unit’s administrative staff, local prison chaplains guide the work of the Field Ministry program. The Field Ministers become volunteers who assist with the pastoral ministry on their unit of assignment. See More

The Field Minister and Taking Anger Seriously

I had heard of the Theological Seminary in the Darrington Unit and the Field Minister program. In my heart, I had prayed for the opportunity to train some of these men to teach the Taking Anger Seriously course. I thought it would be ideal to have theologically trained inmates to systematically teach the course in their Units. These men are also able to teach in the G4 and G5 dorms where volunteers such as me aren’t allowed.

When Chaplain Douglas Cheves of the Clemens Unit in Brazoria County, invited me to train his six Field Ministers, I was delighted and grateful. God had answered my prayers.

On February 5, 2020, I spent the day training Prison Chaplains, Field Ministers, volunteers, and inmates. 19 in all were in the class.

I was very impressed with the hearts of these Field Ministers. They are men of God, building the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout TDCJ. May the Lord Bless the Field Minister program and provide more Field Ministers to teach Taking Anger Seriously.

Note, the Chaplain’s comment in an email after one of his non-theologically trained inmates taught the course:

“It appears to be one of the best-liked anger management courses that we have available to us. Blessings.”

Brandon Cochran – Chaplain, Billy Moore Correctional Center

The Billy Moore Unit is an intensive training facility. They have access to all the anger management courses offered by the State. Please help us spread this course throughout Texas and the nation.