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
Hernando Correctional Institution is located in Brooksville, Florida. The clergy and volunteers of St. Joan of Arc and St. Theresa have been ministering there for years. As we begin to eclipse the restrictions of COVID 19 and after completing the transition from a female facility to a male facility in June of 2022, the facility seeks renewed ministry for those incarcerated. With about 450 inmates, our priests offer Mass and Confessions one evening each week and we are beginning to develop weekly Faith Formation sessions through RCIA and Sacramental Preparation for those interested in developing or deepening their relationship with God.
Pasco County Jail
Our Lady of the Rosary Parish has done a wonderful job of maintaining a Catholic connection with some 1500 people populating the Pasco County Jail. Even through the months of Covid restrictions, several volunteers, guided by the pastor and parish liaison to the jail, have been able to provide bibles, rosaries, and prayer books to the incarcerated seeking a religious presence. As the Covid concerns begin to lift and as the jail shifts from being managed by the sheriff to the county commission (later this year) it is hoped and anticipated that the new management will be open continuing the Monday and Tuesday evening services that may include Communion Services, Scripture Reflection and Confessions to the 150 or so who usually attended services prior to Covid restrictions. As planning to resume begins, the 30 or so volunteers are ready to go!
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. 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.” Although Covid has restricted incoming activities at the jail, including religious services, we continue to remain in constant contact with the chaplain’s office and have several priests, deacons, and lay ministers ready to resume weekly services at the complex on 49th Street.
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.