Volunteer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The Correctional Institutions Division (CID) – Prison & Jail Operations of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates either directly or by contract institutional prisons, state jails and substance abuse felony punishment facilities in six (6) regional districts throughout the State of Texas. A Unit Map and Schedule of Units by Region of all TDCJ Units can be found at the CID’s website. A Unit Directory is also available which provides links to pages that contain comprehensive data on the classification, location, staffing, and other pertinent information of each unit.
Most faith-based programs, such as Catholic service pastoral care programs conducted by volunteers in the Criminal Justice Ministry, take place in TDCJ prison and jail units, and come under the authority of the Chaplaincy Department of the Rehabilitation Programs Division of the TDCJ.
To serve as an approved volunteer (whether clergy or lay) in a TDCJ correctional facility, one must first attend a 4-hour volunteer training/orientation session. The sessions are conducted at various times and locations throughout the state, most commonly at TDCJ correctional units. Additional information and instructions on how to become an approved volunteer can be found on TDCJ’s Volunteer Services web page.
The Criminal Justice Ministry of the Diocese of Austin in conjunction with TDCJ’s Travis State Jail Unit hosts volunteer training sessions at either the diocesan Pastoral Center or a local Catholic parish facility. The dates and locations of these sessions for the 2017 calendar year are as follows:
January 14, 2017 St. Theresa Catholic Church, 4311 Small Dr., Austin, TX
April 15, 2017 Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center, 6225 Highway 290 E, Austin, TX
July 15, 2017 Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center, 6225 Highway 290 E, Austin, TX
October 28, 2017 Diocese of Austin Pastoral Center, 6225 Highway 290 E, Austin, TX
TDCJ Volunteer Training/Orientation Session conducted at the Pastoral Center in July, 2017
All sessions are scheduled from 12:00–4:00 PM, although they may conclude sooner. It is necessary to arrive approximately 30 minutes before the session begins to process in. To register for any of these sessions, please contact either the Office of the Criminal Justice Ministry of the Diocese (512-949-2460) or the Chaplain’s Office at the Travis State Jail Unit (512-926-4482).
It is important to realize that becoming an approved volunteer is only the first step towards serving in a TDCJ correctional facility. The next step is to contact the chaplain or volunteer coordinator of the facility in which you would like to serve. Placement of volunteers is based on the needs of the facility, needs of the offender population, space availability, existing program schedules, and the proposed volunteer activity. The TDCJ Rehabilitation Programs Division publishes a monthly Staff Directory of the Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services Departments from which you can obtain contact information at both the Agency and Unit level. The Office of the Criminal Justice Ministry can also provide assistance in identifying volunteer needs and opportunities within TDCJ units in the Diocese and coordinating volunteer access to those units.
It is not always necessary to become an approved volunteer. If the program or activity in which one wishes to participate is of an infrequent occurrence, that person may enter a TDCJ unit as a special volunteer. To do so still requires prior approval by the chaplain of the correctional facility in which the program or activity is to be conducted, and special volunteers are limited to four (4) visits statewide. Again, the Office of the Criminal Justice Ministry can assist with this process.