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Religious Service Program Guide
This section is intended as a resource for chaplains at detention centers throughout the United States.

If you are a chaplain or volunteer unfamiliar with immigration detention in the U.S., the Detention Basics section is a great place to become familiar with terms, and to gain a basic understanding of the Department of Homeland Security and its immigration detention practices.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA believes that ensuring detainee access to a Religious Service Program (RSP) is crucially important because detainees have a fundamental right to freedom and exercise of religion. 

Do you feel called to serve immigration detainees? Chaplains and volunteers can take action. Chaplains can access the Developing an RSP section to become better acquainted with the requirements of running a RSP and determine how to improve the religious services your program offers to detainees.

Volunteers who want to donate their time and skills to a RSP can view the Volunteering section. Your opportunity to serve and accompany detainees may be as simple as contacting the chaplain at the detention facility closest to your home. 




Detention Basics

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA chaplaincy programs provide pastoral and religious assistance to meet the needs of non-citizens detained by the Department of Homeland Security in U.S. federal detention centers and a Los Angeles County detention center. 

Department of Homeland Security Detention

If you are a chaplain or volunteer unfamiliar with immigration detention in the U.S., the Structure of Federal Immigration Detention and Immigration Terminology and Acronyms will give you a basic understanding of the Department of Homeland Security and its immigration detention practices.

Ensuring Access

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA believes that ensuring detainee access to a Religious Service Program (RSP) is crucially important because detainees have a fundamental right to freedom and exercise of religion. Freedom and Exercise of Religion – A Basic Human Right outlines the legal basis for accommodating the religious rights of immigration detainees. Detainee Spiritual and Religious Needs affirms that pastoral care and religious assistance address crucial personal obligations that do not cease for detainees simply because of their detention. The hope is that you will understand our special concern for ensuring detainee access to religious services.

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RSP Development

A Religious Services Program (RSP) addresses a broad range of detainee needs. Examples include conducting worship services, providing counseling, accommodating requests for new religious practices, facilitating observance of holy days, maintaining religious property in a respectful manner, allowing detainees to fast as needed, and ensuring detainees the opportunity to comply with dietary requirements.

An effective RSP carries out religious services and pastoral care by efficiently allocating tasks to staff, planning for adequate programing, and checking on the quality of its services. Operational RSPs periodically critique their programs to confirm compliance with guidelines and a sufficient array of services. Generally, an accomplished RSP complies with ICE/ERO Detention Standards and maintains a basic knowledge of major faith traditions.

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Volunteering

Volunteering your time and talents for a RSP can be a rewarding experience that benefits the chaplain, the detainees, and you. In fact, you may feel that you receive more than you give. Most likely, you will serve at the DHS detention facility closest to your home. To locate a facility, you should visit the Detention Watch Network’s interactive map of detention facilities or ICE’s list of detention facilities. The Detention Watch Network’s map lists many more facilities than ICE.   

Wherever you decide to volunteer, the chaplain in charge of the RSP will likely welcome volunteer assistance. You should know that Jesuit Refugee Service/USA supports RSPs at the following facilities: Buffalo FDF, El Centro SPC, El Paso SPC, and Florence SPC.  Our partner organization, Church World Service (CWS) works at Krome SPC and Port Isabel SPC.

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World Religions 101

Do you want to learn more about major world religions? Maybe you have a question about a detainee’s religious tradition that was not answered elsewhere in this Guide. Whatever the case, the resources in this section will be helpful to you. 

The introductions in this section are faith-specific and each contains background on the religion’s membership, history, and theology. The sections on Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Orisha have glossaries. Eastern Rite Catholicism features a list of the different Eastern churches organized by rite, Judaism includes a more detailed explanation of the significant holidays, Protestant Christianity has a summary of the Church Year, and Roman Catholicism incorporates a breakdown of the Liturgical Calendar.

All information in the World Religions 101 section has been compiled from the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Technical Reference for Inmate Religious Beliefs and Practices

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