Much like our colleagues in the military and at hospitals, correctional chaplains provide pastoral care to those who are disconnected from the general community by certain circumstances – in this case to those who are imprisoned, as well as to correctional facility staff and their families when requested. Where permitted, we also minister to the families of prisoners.

Each correctional chaplain is also a representative of his or her faith community and is required to be endorsed by their denominational body in order to qualify as a chaplain.

Correctional chaplains are professionals, with specialized training in the unique dynamics of the corrections world. Most serve as full-time correctional facility employees or part-time contract employees.


Correctional facility staff chaplains act as Religious Programs Managers, insuring that all prisoners are afforded the opportunities to practice the faiths of their choice and coordinating the various activities of those faith groups. This requires extensive knowledge of the standards and practices of a diverse range of faiths and denominations therein.

Chaplains provide Pastoral Counseling, thereby affording opportunities for the imprisoned and others impacted by corrections to dialogue openly about their concerns. This frequently includes Notification of death or other tragedy and Grief Counseling in such situations – particularly difficult tasks that require special sensitivity.

Chaplains provide Marriage Counseling when needed, both to those already married and those contemplating marriage.

Chaplains perform Liturgical Duties for their own religious denominations.

Chaplains are the primary advisors on and implementers of Religious Program Policy, clarifying issues involving various faith practices, religious articles, religious diets and other religious standards and insuring that these are permitted to fullest extent possible within usually restrictive corrections environs.

Chaplains are responsible for Religious Volunteer Recruitment, Training and Coordination, working closely with representatives of the various faith communities to encourage community participation in correctional facility programs and insuring that volunteer activities are conducted in a diverse, yet secure manner.

Chaplains are very much a part of the Orderly Operation of correctional facilities by providing positive reinforcement and diffusing frustration, anger and stress amongst prisoners and staff, thereby lessening threats, assaults and other negative behaviors. Chaplains positively impact the Finances of correctional facilities by resolving disputes, averting harm to individuals and damage to facilities and the lawsuits that may result from such occurrences and issues of religious rights.

Chaplains Represent Corrections, particularly in matters of community liaison, advising other clergy and laypersons of corrections matters and thereby raising the awareness of the larger religious and secular communities to the uniqueness of correctional issues.

"Chaplains are important in a correctional setting because they help offenders develop a healthy attitude toward themselves and staff in the prison where the offenders are incarcerated; Chaplains help offenders develop a positive spiritual reality regardless of religious preference and they help promote spiritual growth that will assist in an orderly transition from a prison environment to the outside community."

– Tom Rolfs
Director, Division of Prisons
Washington State Department of Corrections

Code of Ethics


Members of the American Correctional Chaplains Association are available for ministry to all prisoners and staff in jails, prisons, and other institutions in which they serve. Such ministry and outreach will be extended to all regardless of race, cause of confinement, sexual identity, creed, or religious belief.

The following are areas in which members are available to assist:

  1. Identify and utilization of the person’s spiritual resources
  2. Clarification of their ethical standards and guidance for behavior in harmony with their spiritual values.
  3. Guidance in deepening their sense of personal worth
  4. Enhancement of their relationship to their deity, to their family, and to society.


All members are spiritual leaders, other than inmates, who participate in ministry to the incarcerated.

All Association members, volunteer or employed by the institution, uphold the highest personal conduct. Unethical conduct that clearly violates the explicit agreement to abide by the acts of discipline described in this Code shall be grounds for disassociation by the members of this Association.


All members practice their ministry task as pastoral care providers through various religious activities.

Chaplains function as religious professionals within the correctional setting and do not undertake roles that are contrary to that of pastoral care provider. They are empowered by their religious judicatory to administer ordinances and/or sacraments, to counsel, and to provide worship and religious services for youth or adults in detention and correctional settings.

All members make use of their skill and training to maintain the integrity and enhance the image of religious ministry in a correctional setting.


Confidentiality is respected by all members, Oral and written communication is received with the expectation that such remains confidential and not divulged to others. An exception may be made where the content of such communication reveals danger to staff or prisoners and the prisoner is informed of the need for disclosure.

Religious faiths hold that confidentiality by their clergy or those with parallel designation is a sacred trust. The Seal of the Sacrament of Confession and parallel requirements by all faith groups in matters of confidentiality are recognized and respected.


Members continue professional development in personal growth, education, spirituality and understanding of correctional issues. This development includes participation in meetings and training opportunities provided by this Association.


Members meet and maintain requirements set by their particular faith groups. Members maintain ties with their religious faith groups for purposes of support, vocational identity, accountability, evaluation, and fellowship.

Chaplains are those members who are ordained or have parallel designation, or otherwise vocationally identified, for correctional chaplaincy by their religious judicatory or its designated endorsing body representing the faith group. Chaplains are thus authorized for religious ministry within jails or prisons as designated representatives the faith group.

Volunteers, lay and ordained or who have parallel designation, have approval from their religious judicatory or appropriate religious superior in the faith group to serve as a volunteer representing the faith group in a jail or prison.

Members participate in a network or adherents to other faith groups for purposes of common concerns of correctional chaplaincy, sharing of training opportunities, informing the community of needs and objectives of correctional chaplaincy, and fellowship.


Members relate to and cooperate with persons from other professional disciplines in their work environment and community. The welfare of an individual may be enriched and enhanced by consultations and referrals by members to professionals from other disciplines.


Members are responsible for effective ministry within the institution they serve, whether responsibility is for the overall program or for one part of it.

Members exercise their ministry without influencing prisoners or staff to change their religious preference or faith. Members conduct their ministry without communicating derogative attitudes toward other faiths.

Chaplains process all prisoner requests promptly, in order of urgency and without bias.

Chaplai1ns balance administrative duties with direct ministry through individual or group activities, which include religious services, spiritual activities, and pastoral counseling.


Members are primarily involved in matters directly related to the religious portion of the prisoners’ institutional life and rehabilitation.

Members maintain the highest ethical standard of behavior and avoid any social, personal, financial, or political situation that might discredit their ministry.

Chaplains are responsible for planning, coordinating, and supervising all religious activities and services. They are responsible for ministry to prisoners regardless of religious beliefs or affiliation, using outside sources for assistance when needed.

Chaplains are responsible for preventing and correcting institutional policies and actions which distort, misuses, or suppress religious tenets and principles of all faith group adherents.

Chaplains uphold and promote standards for religious faith and practice within the institution which are in harmony with the Standard for Faith and Practice devised by this Association for youth and adult detention and prison institutions.

(Ballot Adoption Announced January 20, 1992, Portland, Oregon)

Constitution and Bylaws

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