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Local RSP Planning
Thursday, January 03, 2008

A RSP organized with proper management and staffing can easily undertake starting the RSP at a detention center. An effective local RSP begins with excellent planning. This means writing a Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Plan that incorporates a Site Assessment as well as considerations about staff development, performance reviews, termination, and conflict resolution.

Chaplaincy and Care Site Assessment

Site Visit

When conducting the Site Assessment, a team composed on chaplains and pastoral care specialists should visit the site to assess the chaplaincy and pastoral care services that the RSP will need to provide for the detainees. The assessment team should determine the detainee population’s level of chaplaincy need. Generally, facilities with greater than 300 detainees require a full-time chaplain, facilities holding 150 to 300 detainees need a half-time chaplain, and facilities with less than 150 detainees need a part-time chaplain that can be contracted through a local church. A priest, deacon, or minister can serve as the contract chaplain. The assessment team’s decision about the level of need ensures that the chaplain eventually hired for the job will not be overextended.

The Chaplain

The Site Assessment outlines the chaplain’s role within the facility. Therefore, it incorporates the facility’s chaplaincy policies, a clear and detailed job description, an organizational chart that shows the chaplain’s accountability and relationships within the facility, and any necessary support personnel. If the facility needs a part-time chaplain contracted through a local church, the Site Assessment should indicate the need for a written agreement among the National Management, the chaplain, and the detention facility.

Developing the Job Description

The Site Assessment defines the chaplain’s role, expectations, and place in the organization. Each contributes to a complete job description.  

When defining the chaplain’s role, the assessment team should consider the services the chaplain will have to render and any issues specific to the detainee population at the facility.  Chaplains can provide detention facilities a wide range of services such as worship services, ministering to detention facility staff, personal counseling, group counseling, individual education, program administration, multidenominational activities, and volunteer management. Issues specific to the detainee population include the number of detainees, the chaplain’s relationship with facility management, available facility resources, community resources, funding, and meeting the ICE/ERO Detention Standards.

A defined role enables the site visit team to articulate the expectations for the chaplain including goals for the RSP and detention facility. Crafting reasonable expectations and goals for the chaplain is essential to avoid burnout.

The RSP’s chaplain will work with people and report to people inside the detention facility and at National Management overseeing the RSP. The Site Assessment should define the chaplain’s place within the organizational structure and how the chaplain will be accountable to both the detention facility management and National Management. In JRS/USA programs, chaplains have served as members of the detention facility management team. In other cases chaplains have not been included in the facility management team. Initially, JRS/USA recommends that the chaplain reports to the ICE OIC and National Management.

The job description incorporates all the decisions made about the chaplain’s role, expectations, and place within the organizational structure. A well-written job description   should describe the purpose of the job, indicate the position’s organization place within the detention facility, define the chaplain’s relationships with other detention facility staff, identify the people the chaplain reports to, delineate areas of responsibility, specify regular duties, and organize the relative importance of duties. The job description should also explain the selection criteria such as experience, skills, personal attributes, academic qualifications, and any other special requirements.


The Site Assessment will examine the likely expenses the RSP will incur and its sources of funding. Expenses include staff salary, religious resources at the RSP (hymn books, worship aides, religious scriptures, and prayer booklets), staff training, and reimbursement for other minor expenses. The Site Assessment should consider a system for regularly reviewing the RSP’s funding. A proper review of funding establishes that the RSP has the adequate funding and resources necessary for meeting contractual requirements, serving the detainees, and satisfying ICE/ERO Detention Standards.

Resources at the Detention Facility

The RSP’s chaplain requires, at minimum, some resources and conditions from the facility: a room for counseling and private interviews, a space for worship activities, general access to detention center’s facilities, and the ability to move freely. The Site Assessment should determine if the chaplain will require other resources or facilities to operate the RSP.  The assessment should also decide how to obtain the necessary facilities or resources that the detention facility cannot offer.

Staff Development and Education

A well-functioning RSP has opportunities for the chaplain and staff to receive further training. When writing the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Plan, National Management should decide how the chaplain receives further training, the skills developed through training, and opportunities for professional development.  JRS/USA recommends that chaplains attend the Chaplain Certification training offered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and join the local chapter of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains for education and support. National Management can suggest other mentoring relationships and formal support groups.

Performance Reviews

National Management incorporates the frequency and format of performance reviews into the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Plan. Performance reviews offer a chance for National Management to discuss with the chaplain the goals achieved, setting new goals, the adequacy of support structures, and training needs. Annual performance reviews are recommended.


If National Management directly employs the chaplain, then the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Plan needs to explain the process for termination. When the chaplain is contracted through a local church, the written agreement among the parties will describe termination.

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts among colleagues occur and often because of disputes about someone’s role or responsibilities. The National Management should develop a conflict resolution process for mediating disputes.


Planning for a local RSP at a detention facility is vital and JRS/USA believes that a Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Plan embodies the fundamental planning. The recommendations of the Site Assessment are the primary component of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Plan. The site visit team advocates which services the RSP will provide, the type of chaplain needed at the facility, the chaplain’s role, the expectations for the chaplain, proper placement within the facility’s organization, a clear job description, funding issues, and resources the facility should arrange for the RSP. National Management should contribute to the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Plan sections on staff development, performance reviews, termination process, and conflict resolution.