Religion at Dodge and My Take

Posted: April 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

One of the things that may surprise you to learn about Dodge Correctional Institution, the reception center for the Wisconsin Prison system, is the level of religious opportunity provided and participation that goes on.  Just about every major religious belief system I’m aware of is represented in some fashion, be it a study or religious service.  There are many Bible studies provided that would be considered advanced in nature.  And if participation on a per capita basis of the population in a religious study or service is any indicator, Dodge Correctional Institution is by far the most religious place I’ve ever seen!  Of course, as in the real world, motives for such participation in religious activities are as varied and mixed as the people who attend.  Everything from getting out of one’s cell for an hour, genuine devotion to their faith, an opportunity to hear from people who are outside of the institution, a chance to talk to others – it could be all or none of these for a specific person.

The way it works is when you get here, you indicate a religious preference and are automatically assigned to that service, and at some point, given a religious text like a Bible if available. Those that indicate “none” aren’t given anything.  I’ve heard many regret that choice.  I believe they have to wait 90 days to change this.  At the time they are given the religious text they are allowed to pick 2 studies to participate in.  I picked “Protestant” and 2 studies I can’t remember now. Thing is you get bounced if you miss the studies which I often did due to Health Services appointments and trips to Madison for chemotherapy.  They have a maximum allowed  number of participants in each study and they are all almost always full so those who miss are bounced quickly.

At the Protestant services I attend on Sundays, you just never know what you might get.  One Sunday it was a black Pentecostal group from Milwaukee.  Another Sunday, it was a white Methodist group from the West Bend area.  They always bring in a worship team of some sort and Dodge provides them a halfway decent sound system. Some even ask for the participation of the volunteer chair made up of Dodge inmates. I won’t lie, they aren’t great but they are enthusiastic. I should talk though.  When I sing in the shower the water goes the other way!  Everyone is seated by guards and the talking is suppose to stop. The service starts, and of course, just like a parent having to tell their kids to behave in church , the chaplain or guard has to interrupt a few times and tell people to be quiet or get rid of their gum. That’s a combination of immaturity, lack of manners, but a lot of it is the isolation from others. At least that’s my thought. Just so you know, the best group I’ve seen here at Dodge was a drama team named “Mission Possible” who I know reached me and others on Feb 7th with what they did.  In case you are interested, they can be contacted at “Mission Possible, 606 W. Wisconsin, Oconomowoc, WI 53066”. Tell them this blog referred you, ok?

As far as I am concerned, I am very devoted to my faith in Christ.  I have seen many religions growing up in different homes, studied for a time to become a minister, started a Christian music group that spread the gospel all over Wisconsin and Illinois and was the main songwriter and spiritual leader for that group.  But one thing I’ve learned the hard way, being a Christian doesn’t mean the problems you have or those around you that are affecting you go away.  It doesn’t replace what you need to do to take care of yourself.  God blessed us with counseling services, psychologists, medications, hospitals and clinics to be used.  Christianity doesn’t replace them.  But I’ll close with an old Lutheran hymn –“I Walk in Danger All the Way”.

I walk in danger all the way, this thought will never leave me, Though Satan who has marked his prey, is plotting to deceive me, This foe with hidden shares, will seize me if I’m unaware, If I should fail to watch and pray, I walk in danger all the way

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