No Mas Mass

There are almost 30 volunteers from many faith backgrounds who come to Bastrop Federal Satellite for religious services. Many have been coming for a long time, one for over 22 years. Unfortunately, all that came to a screeching halt in December.

We were told that the Bureau of Prisons has adopted a new nationwide program statement on volunteers. The former policy required volunteers to submit to a background check. Once approved, they could drive to the camp, check in with the camp officer on duty, and walk to the chapel un-escorted. That policy had worked here efficiently for many years.

Beginning in December, volunteers must now be subjected to an FBI background check which costs $150 per person (an amount not in the Bastrop budget) or they must be escorted to and from the chapel by one of the chaplains, who is supposed to stay with them until they leave.

We have 2 chaplains who work at the camp, but their offices are at the Low Security Federal Prison with which we share a campus. They're unable/unwilling to drive to the camp and sit in on all the various services, so they informed all the volunteers that they could no longer come to the camp. Hopefully a solution will be forthcoming, but working out solutions is not an organizational strength of the Bureau of Prisons. Without exception, the religious volunteers who come here were selfless and caring, with no agenda other than responding to a clear calling to serve.

I've been here long enough to be skeptical when someone from the Bureau of Prisons tells me anything. I still remember when the Medical Director said that we didn't need soap. That it was the friction from rubbing our hands together that removed bacteria. You would think that I would believe the chaplain. This is one time I wish I had Google. so I could find out what is really going on.