In late 1978, Mr. Norm Ringel, a Howard County (Maryland) mental health specialist involved with the Howard County Detention Center (HCDC), suggested to Mr. Gerald McClellan, HCDC Director of Corrections, that it would be helpful to expand religious programs at HCDC beyond the Sunday worship services being provided by various churches, church groups, and individuals. With Mr. McClellan’s encouragement, Mr. Ringel contacted the Columbia Cooperative Ministry about providing pastoral counseling at HCDC. Rev. Lyle Buck, then senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, was asked by the Columbia Cooperative Ministry to spearhead this endeavor and became the principal clergyman who provided pastoral counseling services for HCDC inmates.
In early 1979, Dr. Dale Pace, a certified supervisor chaplain for correctional ministries, moved to Howard County to work at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He and Rev. Buck came to know one another that spring. Rev. Buck suggested that Dr. Pace assume leadership of religious programs at HCDC. Dr. Pace agreed to do so if both HCDC were willing to have a significant religious program (not just a token program) and those then involved in the HCDC programs were willing to accept his leadership. Both conditions were met. Dr. Pace drafted plans for an initial set of religious programs for HCDC (consisting of Sunday worship services, weekly Bible classes, individual counseling, literature distribution, and Bible correspondence study) and for an expanded program later. He was appointed as Chaplain for HCDC in July 1979. An oversight board for HCDC religious programs (consisting of local clergy, HCDC officials, and other members of the community) was established. Rev. Buck was its first president. Originally the organization was known as the Task Force on Christian Ministry at the Howard County Detention Center. Donations for materials (Bibles, literature, etc.) used in this ministry were funneled through First Presbyterian Church of Howard County (Columbia) or through Bethel Baptist Church (Ellicott City).
During the next several years, this ministry was led by Dr. Pace on a limited, part-time basis and involved volunteers which he recruited from a dozen or so area churches. In order to facilitate future expansion of the ministry at HCDC, the ministry was incorporated in 1982 as a non-profit organization, with Dr. Pace as its president, and became known as Christian Jail Ministry, Inc. (CJM).
Rev. Walter Smith, an experienced jail chaplain, joined CJM that year as a part-time Chaplain (also serving part-time as Associate Pastor for Bethel Baptist Church). He became a full-time CJM Chaplain in 1986 and continued as a CJM chaplain until his retirement in September 2001. By the mid-1980s, the number of area churches involved in this ministry had grown to about 25, along with an increase in the number of classes, number of counseling and discipleship sessions, and other religious programs at HCDC.
The Rev. Guy Nichols joined the CJM Chaplain staff in 1995, serving as a part-time Chaplain from 1995 to 1997 (while a part-time Associate Pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Columbia), and became the CJM Lead Chaplain in 1998. The Rev. Herbert Gross served CJM as an Associate Chaplain from 1998 through 2005 and the Rev. Angela Bonitto was a CJM Associate Chaplain for ministry to female inmates from early 2000 until late 2001. By this time, the CJM ministry at HCDC and with inmate family members and releasees involved about 300 volunteers from about 40 area churches. CJM programs include Sunday worship services, Bible classes, Christian 12-step programs, one-on-one discipleship training, Christian videos/films, group/individual counseling, pastoral counseling, literature distribution, Bible correspondence study, Christmas and school assistance for children of inmates, spiritual and material “after care” for inmate families/releasees (i.e., former inmates), training/supervision for volunteers, and community education about ministry to prisoners and their families.
In mid-2001, Chaplain Walter Smith retired from CJM. To help Chaplain Nichols handle CJM responsibilities after Chaplain Smith retired, CJM established the position of Chaplain’s Assistant. Mrs. Anne Dutra and Mr. Merton (Tex)Teixeira were appointed as CJM’s first Chaplain’s Assistants in late 2001, with Mrs. Dutra serving until 2005 and Mr. Teixeira serving from his appointment until his passing early in 2007. Mrs. Michelle Thomas was appointed as the Chaplain’s Assistant for ministry to women by the CJM Board at its meeting in October 2006 and served until mid-2008. Mr. Gerard Washington was appointed as the Chaplain’s Assistant for ministry to men by the CJM Board at its meeting in October 2007. In 2013, Kevin Griffin became Chaplain’s Assistant for men and in 2014, Mrs. Cathy Hendricks became Chaplain’s Assistant for women. An appointment as Chaplain’s Assistant is for a term of one year, but can be renewed annually by the CJM Board as often as it deems appropriate.
Chaplain Nichols retired from CJM at the end of 2011 in order that he and his wife could move to Florida and help their daughter who had serious health issues. During his years as Chaplain’s Assistant, Gerard Washington felt God calling him to become a chaplain and he started preparing for such and was licensed as a clergyman by his church in 2011. At the beginning of 2012, he became the CJM chaplain. To assist in the transition from Chaplain Nichols to Chaplain Washington as the primary CJM Chaplain, Dr. Pace served as part-time Lead Chaplain in 2013 and 2014.
In 2000, CJM began a poetry program for men at HCDC led by Art Milkes. A poetry program for women at HCDC was begun in 2007, led by Geneva Colbert. The poetry programs supplement the full spectrum of religious programs that CJM provides inmates at HCDC (worship services, Bible studies, Christian videos, pastoral counseling, one-on-one discipleship training, religious literature and Bible correspondence courses, Christian 12-step/addiction recovery programs to combat addictions), etc. In 2013, the CJM Poetry Programs transitioned to The Spoken Word Program led by Michael Watkins and Michele Harris.
At the end of 1999, CJM established a Transition Housing Task Force to explore the need for housing and other assistance for former inmates. A pilot program was developed and transition housing for former inmates was provided from mid-2000 to mid-2001 by a grant from the Columbia Foundation. CJM stopped providing transition housing for former inmates in mid-2001 because long term funding to support that part of its activities had not developed and the efforts to provide such was significantly distracting CJM from its primary ministry inside HCDC. Consequently, in order to focus better on its primary ministry inside the Howard County Detention Center, CJM stopped trying to provide transition housing for former inmates, but continues to serve as an advocate for transition housing resources for former inmates and provides training for those interested in serving as mentors with former inmates. The CJM After Care Program also changed about the end of 2001 from one striving to provide extensive after care for those released from the Howard County Detention Center and for the family of inmates at the Howard County Detention Center to an ad hoc ministry to selected former inmates and inmate families (we praise God for the privilege of helping some even if we cannot help all whom we would like to serve). Lack of resources has been the reason for this limited approach to after care ministry.
CJM understands the importance of ministering to inmate families and former inmates, but when the community provides inadequate resources both to minister fully inside the jail and to provide after care, CJM has to make a hard choice. We have chosen to focus on the ministry inside the jail since that cannot be done as well without CJM, and have had to leave after care to the churches of the community. They are more able to help inmate families and former inmates without CJM’s special help than they are able to minister effectively behind bars without CJM’s special help. We wish the community would make it possible for CJM both to minister fully within the jail and to provide extensive help in after care for inmate families and former inmates in the community.
In October of 2007, the CJM Board expanded CJM’s ministry inside HCDC by appointing four clergymen as CJM Associate Chaplains: Pastor Jerry Cooper (Pastor, Gethsemane Baptist), Jorge Fonseca (Pastor, Iglesia Cristiana de Columbia), Irwyn Ince (Senior Pastor, City of Hope Church), and Walter Rodriguez (Senior Pastor, Primera Iglesia del Nazareno). These four were joined by Jay Gamble (Founding Pastor, Life Change A.M.E. Church) in mid-2008. In 2009 and 2010, circumstances changed. Two of the Associate Chaplains moved out of the area and responsibilities of two more changed so they were not able to continue as Associate Chaplains.
In 2011, Pastor Irwyn Ince (Senior Pastor, City of Hope Church) joined CJM as Associate Chaplain and in 2012 Reverend Gerald “Jerry” Hoots joined in the same capacity. Reverend Hoots leads the 9:30 a.m. worship service on the second, third and fifth Sundays of the month. He served as an Associate CHaplain through 2014.
The Gideons have been involved in Sunday services at HCDC since this ministry began in 1979 and for many years have been part of Christmas programs at HCDC also. Until about 2005, members of the Chrystal family who were involved in HCDC Sunday services through the Carney Assembly of God Church had ministered consistently at HCDC since the mid-1950s! There are few who like the Chrystal family have a half-century of faithful sharing of Christ’s love with inmates. They became part of the ministry of CJM at HCDC when it began in 1979. Facilities for grading inmate Bible correspondence courses have been provided by Bethel Baptist Church since the early 1980s. Facilities for training volunteers, for volunteer/recognition dinners, and for benefit concerts have been provided by Bethel Baptist Church, Chapelgate Presbyterian Church, Community Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Glen Mar United Methodist Church, Grace Community Church, and Mt. Zion United Methodist Church over the years. Churches involved in special programs at HCDC (e.g., at Christmas) include a countywide chorus, The Alleluias, Abiding Savior Lutheran Church handbell choir, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church youth group, Gideons, Bethel Baptist Church, Covenant Baptist Church, Mt. Pisgah AME Men’s Choir, and several other denominational and transdenominational groups. From mid-2001 to mid-2002, Christ Episcopal Churchprovided CJM with office space so that volunteers could relieve CJM chaplains of some of the administrative tasks.
Since 1979, presentations about this ministry have been made in 40-50 community churches, to a score of ministerial associations and other clergy groups, and to a variety of civic and service clubs. This ministry has also been the subject of various newspaper and journal articles and TV programs. CJM consistently provides high quality programs for inmates and their families. CJM’s ministry was described in the early 1980s as a model jail program in the American Correctional Association’s journal Correction Today. A similar article about CJM appeared in 2000 in the American Jail Association’s journal, American Jails. CJM has been honored as the Volunteer Group of the Year by the United Way and Howard County Volunteer Association as well as being formally recognized as valuable for HCDC and the County by the Howard County Executive. In 2000, two CJM volunteers were nominated for Howard County Volunteer of the Year recognition largely on the basis of their CJM efforts.
CJM always works closely with HCDC personnel and the secular rehabilitation programs at HCDC. For example, CJM has participated in the Re-entry Program that HCDC established in 2014 by providing a session on the practical importance of church involvement for former inmates. (Church involvement can help former inmates maintain positive attitudes, develop helpful relationships with people not involved in criminal behaivior, etc.). Another example of CJM involvement in secular rehab at HCDC has been its contribution to inmate literacy training since 2013.
Since its beginning, CJM’s ministry has been overseen by a Board composed of local pastors, correctional officials, volunteers involved in CJM programs, and local business leaders. Current members of the CJM Board are shown elsewhere on this website. Pastors on the CJM Board have come from Baptist, Church of God, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, and non-denominational churches. The HCDC Director of Corrections (originally Mr. McClellan, later Mr. Buck Rollins, then Ms. Melanie Pereira, and now Mr. Jack Kavanaugh) and other HCDC leaders: Program Supervisor (Mr. Ken Watts until 2004, Ms. Patricia (Trish) Schupple since 2005 who became the HCDC Deputy Director in 2008), and HCDC Security Supervisor (Mr. McLindsey Hawkins until his retirement in mid-2002; from 2008 until September 2012, Mr. Robert Baldwin, Chief of Security during that time, and Mr. Edward Scott since 2013) have also been part of the CJM Board. Most of the time from 1982 to 1998, Dr. Pace was the CJM Board president. Mr. James Phelps served as the CJM Board president for a couple of years in the early 1990s; Rev. Bill Crowe (Director of Missions for the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association) became CJM Board president in July 1998 when Dr. Pace became the CJM Board president emeritus. Rev. Crowe served as president of the CJM Board until March 2007, when Mrs. Beverly Goering became president of the CJM Board. Mr. Bob Rose served as president of the CJM Board from 2010 to 2012 and Pastor Irwyn Ince took on the presidency in 2013 and 2014. Dr. Olakunle Olaniyan became president of the CJM Board in 2015 and currently serves in that position.
CJM is financed by donations from individuals, churches, civic/community groups, and businesses. These contributions make it possible to provide professional leadership (CJM Chaplains) and materials (Bibles, literature, etc.) needed for religious programs at HCDC to be most effective. Dedicated and competent volunteers in CJM’s ministry help to make this ministry so fruitful — as measured in lives changed, improved conditions at HCDC, etc. Many in CJM’s ministry have been involved for a long time. In 1980, Chaplain Guy Nichols became CJM’s first one-on-one discipleship training volunteer for male inmates. His CJM involvement led him to undertake theological training and prepared him for leaving his position as a chief financial officer for a brokerage to become a clergyman. In 1998 at the annual CJM Volunteer Recognition Banquet, the HCDC Director of Corrections recognized and honored Dr. Dale Pace as he became CJM President Emeritus, Ms. Geneva Joyner (now Mrs. Colbert), CJM’s first one-on-one discipleship training volunteer for female inmates, along with two other volunteers (Mrs. Anne Dutra and Mr. Bill Houston) who also had been involved with CJM since the early 1980s for their contributions to the well-being of HCDC. CJM looks forward to more volunteers, program increases, increased ministry to inmate families and releasees, and increased financial support (from more churches, individuals, and businesses, possibly supplemented by grants from foundations and other sources).