History of Jail Ministry
In 1974 the St Ben’s Capuchins asked two sisters to aid them in addressing the moral issues that faced them in their ministry at the nearby Milwaukee County Jail. One of the original members, Sr Rita Martin, a Racine Dominican, and other interested people opened a Center originally called Wisconsin Program for women and girl offenders. Funding was later obtained to provide individualized education/counseling of inmates.
In 1976 Alan Veik, Capuchin, started a chaplaincy/counseling program for male inmates. The following June he joined the Center full time. Eventually the main activities of the Center, each with its own full-time staff person, were the chaplaincy program, the community education and legislative action program, and an individualized education and counseling program for women inmates and support for them after their release from jail.
In Oct 1978 the entire operation was incorporated as Benedict Center for Criminal Justice. It became a legal entity distinct from St Benedict with its own board of directors, administrators and executive board. See www.benedictcenter.org.
St Ben’s provides a home and support center to volunteer chaplains and those who minister in the jails around us. They gather at St Ben's friary every month for prayer, scripture reading, support and sharing. Some of the projects now in place are: The Holiday Gift Project, Jail Retreats for Women (three times/year), and weekly meetings with inmates. The weekly meetings include discussion groups, Scripture studies, art classes and prayer and parenting discussions. Volunteer chaplains are also involved in writing to prisoners, distributing Bibles, working in jail libraries and providing support & resource materials for families of prisoners.
People at St Ben’s do advocacy work for incarcerated men and women. St Ben’s was an early supporter of Wisconsin Coalition Against the Death Penalty www.wcadp.org