Note: Our ministry does not serve Citrus County at this time. The Citrus County Jail is privatized and run by the Corrections Corporation of America, under a contract with the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners.
Hillsborough County Jail
Our Jails are warehouses of our poor and marginalized brothers and sisters and Hillsborough County Jail is one of the largest jails in the state of Florida. After two years of inactivity due to Covid 19, the Catholic ministry at the Hillsborough County Jail restarted in October 2021 at the invitation of the Jail Chaplain. We have been in the process of steadily rebuilding a viable ministry which will be sustained into the future. A dedicated cadre of priests, deacons, and lay ministers from the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s parishes in Hillsborough County serve inmates with Liturgies of the Word, reconciliation, faith sharing, and catechetical discussions. Services are currently offered to men and women in English on Sunday afternoons and on Saturday morning there is a service for men in Spanish.
Hernando County Jail
A small group of devoted St. Joan of Arc volunteers bring our Catholic presence to this 800 inmate jail, also located in Brooksville. Our Monday and Thursday services are to men and women, directly across the street from the prison. I remember like it was yesterday, the first time I made a visit to this jail. It’s a bare, sparse existence for inmates and was rather overwhelming for those of us who made this first visit. Being a prison ministry volunteer is not for the faint of heart.
Hernando State Correctional
HCI is located in Brooksville, Florida. Our dedicated team have been in ministry there for many years, ‘going with the flow’ as this prison has changed demographics on several occasions. With approximately 457 inmates and less than 20 volunteers, there is much to be offered. Calling themselves the Saints Dismas and Magdalene Prison Ministry Team, we offer a regular Catholic service, but also mentoring and RCIA. Just a few of the classes our volunteers offer include: “Communication and Anger”, a 12-week “Finding God Within” class, parenting classes, the list is extensive!
Pasco County Jail
Where to begin? From a time when rosaries, bibles, and almost no Catholic presence… this Spirit Fired Team of 37, re-organized their priorities by not only being at the jail every Monday and Tuesday evening; but, in addition began providing other services to the men and women at the jail. On a weekly basis, volunteers minister to 150 men and women with a Eucharistic service. Our Team have also taken on a spirit of ecumenism involving faith based groups in ministry at the Jail (and the community) to take up clothing drives, providing Pasco County all day bus passes when inmates are released so they do not have to walk the 8-12 miles from the jail to the social service providers located within the community. The Team found cardboard rosary alternatives to the real thing and work closely and in harmony with the Staff Chaplain, and the Program Director, with the full support of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. The application process is overseen by Our Lady of the Rosary Parish; all potential volunteers are interviewed and applications are submitted with approval, to the jail.
Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center
Not enough gets said about this particular small group of truly dedicated volunteers who have faithfully served the at risk youth at this JDC for years, visiting each Tuesday. What’s unique is that, for years, they have also served on the JDC Board for this facility; providing input as to what is offered for the children in all areas of ‘education’; both faith based and rudimentary. The staff at the Pasco JDC includes men and women who have worked their way up the ranks; sometimes 2nd generation family members, so this group knows one another almost as old friends who have chosen to work together for the sake of the kids in their care. I cannot say enough about this Team – anyone who works with juveniles will have their hearts broken, and yet, they continue each week knowing God wants them there.
Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center
Our deeply devoted Team of 12 minister to young men and women every week and one Saturday a month. This is a very specialized ministry to youth age 7 to 17; many of whom make multiple visits through the JDC as the average ‘stay’ is only 21 days. On top of bringing ‘church’ services to the boys and girls, we encourage them in every way possible as role models and mentors; reminding them of the Christ-light inside each of them; and the Father who always forgives and never leaves their sides. This Team gather’s together before entering the facility to pray for working with broken and abused youth is probably the most challenging of all our ministries.
Pinellas County Jail
This sprawling 54 acre complex is the 28th largest jail in the nation. Its average daily population exceeds 3,000 inmates. The jail houses both pre-trial detainees and sentenced offenders. 40 dedicated volunteers offer eight weekly Catholic services in English and Spanish. Legion of Mary volunteers teach Marian devotion and the rosary. This jail offers in-house Red Tent classes; whose attendees go on to continue in Red Tent aftercare. The PCJ houses federal detainees and those accused of very serious crimes; including terrorism. This facility mandates stringent security measures to ensure the safety of all volunteers. To quote a new volunteer; “ I look forward to the services. The inmates are very appreciative of this ministry. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is changing some lives through this ministry.”
Zephyrhills State Correctional
This long term men’s prison recently hosted Bishop Parkes to celebrate Mass and because of the length of stay, our Team of 27 are able to offer RCIA classes, KAIROS retreat weekends, Mass, Communion services, Bible study four times a week. Men incarcerated at ZCI can grow old and die there with only the volunteers and staff to know them and mourn their passing. They are called “Brothers in Blue” and our Team is dedicated to bringing the Word of God to them and showing them they are loved by Him. St. Joseph’s in Zephyrhills oversees this facility.