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Detainee Spiritual & Religious Needs
Monday, February 01, 2010

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA administers Religious Services Programs (RSPs) that provide pastoral and religious assistance to meet the needs of non-citizens detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) both in federal detention centers in Arizona, California, New York, Texas, and in a Los Angeles County, California detention center. These programs enable people of all faiths to have access to pastoral care within their faith tradition. JRS/USA operates programs based on a non-proselytizing model that is ecumenical in scope and practice. The RSPs promote courage, hope, and peace for detainees dealing with uncertain futures and the daily routines inside detention facilities. In addition to pastoral counseling, chaplains facilitate religious activities that include opportunities for worship, prayer, scripture services, and fellowship within the traditions of each person’s faith. JRS/USA’s chaplains and pastoral care workers support detainees in crisis by helping them find purpose, meaning, value, direction, hope, and love in their lives.

The trained chaplains of JRS/USA's RSPs minister to the spiritual and pastoral needs of detainees. These chaplains understand the importance of individual’s faith in the context of a detention center. They help detainees deal with the emotional and spiritual factors associated with separation from family, loss of economic stability, and pending legal decisions. They encourage men and women to strengthen their religious beliefs and attitudes as they struggle to cope with the despair and uncertainty of detention.

For JRS/USA, spiritual care often involves helping people become more aware of the underlying assumptions by which they live while re-evaluating them in the light of the harsh reality of detention and the prospect of being deported. For many detainees, after spending their whole lives in the U.S. it is very frightening to face the possibility of being deported to a country where they have few if any cultural or family connections, limited language skills, and little sense of home.

The staff of JRS/USA accompanies detainees through an extremely difficult period in their lives. Accompaniment affirms that God is present in human history, even in its most tragic episodes. Through the RSPs, detainees experience God’s presence and are shown that God has not abandoned them.