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D.C. honors volunteers for outstanding service.

The District of Columbia Department of Corrections has more than 2,500 volunteers in a variety of positions, including chaplains, health education counselors, nurses, adult education teachers, family counselors, employment specialists, vocational counselors and trainers, and ex-offender support services specialists.

The department recognized the efforts of its many dedicated volunteers at its 13th annual volunteer appreciation ceremony held earlier this year on Capitol Hill. The theme of the event was "That's What Friends Are For."

Booker T. Hines, pastor of a local church who has served as a volunteer with the department for 10 years, spoke about the integral role of volunteers in the corrections system. "It's important that those who are incarcerated have a sense of direction," he said. "Many men and women serving prison terms have a clouded sense of who they are and what they want out of life. Our role is to reach out and touch the lives of those who have gone astray." The Rev. Hines currently volunteers as a pastoral counselor at the department's new community-based Correctional Treatment Facility.

The appreciation ceremony recognized the outstanding contributions of more than 300 volunteers. In addition to private citizens, the department honored organizations such as the NAACP, Hispanic Volunteers, Georgetown University Law Center, Concerned Citizens on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, IMPACT D.C. (a community-based HIV/AIDS education and case management agency), New Birth Project (an ex-offender support services group) and Bona Bond (a third party custody agency). A number of religious groups, including Prison Fellowship, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the First Baptist Church of Highland Park, also were recognized.

During the ceremony, D.C. Department of Corrections Director Walter B. Ridley presented several awards for outstanding volunteer service.

Brenda H. Jones, volunteer executive director and founder of Parklands Community Center, was honored for her work providing life skills and tutorial services to youths and their parents, many of whom have relatives behind bars. Jones is an outspoken advocate for community corrections programs and alternatives to incarceration, and her testimony before legislative bodies has greatly aided D.C. corrections.

"I believe in volunteerism because it is crucial to any public or private social and human services effort," Jones said. "People who volunteer in prison are a special breed who really understand human suffering. They can serve as positive change agents to offenders."

The Alliance for Concerned Men, a group of parenting skills specialists, received special recognition for leading regular group counseling sessions at the department's Central Facility. The sessions make it possible for incarcerated men to become better fathers while serving time. After an inmate group member is released from prison, the Alliance provides him and his family with free community-based support services. Recently, at a separate function, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno commended the program as an excellent example of a worthwhile public/private partnership helping at-risk families.

Another recipient of the prestigious Director's Award was Sister Maria Lapazaran, who for the past five years has volunteered approximately 160 hours per month with the department. She serves as a Spanish language interpreter for the inmate classification and adjustment board, and she provides follow-up life skills counseling to Hispanic inmates released into the community.

Another award recipient, Robert McCall, was honored for his deep commitment to volunteer service. A North Carolina resident, McCall travels 400 miles every month to provide pastoral counseling to inmates housed in the D.C. prison complex in Lorton, Va.

Many of the award recipients said their awards--handmade plaques with custom engraving--were particularly special because they were crafted by inmates in the department's industries division.

In presenting the awards, Ridley recognized the value of volunteers and their contributions to departmental services: "We are truly grateful for the caring efforts of volunteers, who not only enable D.C. Corrections to go the extra mile for those in prison, but who really help inmates to prepare for a successful return to the community.

"Sometimes it is difficult to express in words our genuine appreciation to volunteers. Ceremonies and special activities honoring them can have a long-lasting impact and hopefully encourage others to join us in the spirit of volunteerism."
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:District of Columbia Department of Corrections
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Words:688
Previous Article:Respect, recognition are keys to effective volunteer programs.
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