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Monday, March 24, 2014

How To Eat An Elephant


I realize that I do not talk about it often, but religion and spirituality are topics that I am very interested in and drawn to. Through my own journey I have come to my particular beliefs, and I do not claim to have a monopoly on truth. I became unitarian universalist because of their tolerance for all belief systems that are not harmful. Most people aren't even aware of this group, but that's okay. I don't scoff at what others believe, I encourage them on their particular path and attempt to help them in any way I can. I think that's why I'm drawn to the Chaplaincy Department.

Wilkinson County's Correctional Center has, in recent months, hired a new chaplain to meet the spiritual needs of the prisoners housed here. Mr. Roscoe Barnes, Ph.D., is the man for the job. Working within the limitations of the prison environment he has begun weekly Jumah services for the Muslim prisoners, weekly Christian services, and even arranged for auditions for a praise group/choir รก la American Idol. One man can only do so much when trying to meet the needs of over 900 prisoners, though.

What Chaplain Barnes needs right now are volunteers who will come in and share their time and love with prisoners. Mr. Barnes has reached out to the local congregations, and Christian volunteers are being vetted and trained to help. But other faiths and belief systems are underrepresented. I have seen that a lot in Mississippi, and I am asking for your help to change it. We need to see Islamic volunteers, Wiccans coming into prisons, Jewish believers sharing their love, Thelemites living by agape instead of mouthing the words, Kabbalists teaching from their wisdom. We aren't asking you to come in and try to convert everyone. Rather, we are asking that you share of yourself and donate your time, live by what you profess to believe.

Chaplain Barnes has a lot on his plate, but is undaunted by the enormity of the task. When I asked him how he plans on getting it all done, he asked a question in return. "You know how you eat an elephant?" Laughing, he answered his own question with a simple truth, "One bite at a time." I am glad to have Chaplain Barnes filling the position he does and I am asking that you help us to help him. We are looking for any groups that might be interested in donating materials and literature pertaining to their particular faith to the Chaplaincy Department at WCCC. Know of any covens or temples in the surrounding area that might have members interested in volunteering to do some prison outreach work? Have any suggestions or advice? You can contact us by emailing us at prisoninmateslife@gmail.com or by emailing Chaplain Barnes directly at roscoe.barnes@mtctrains.com or even by calling (601) 888-3199 ext. 2214 to speak to him. We look forward to any feedback from you.

About Steven

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
WCCC
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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