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Category Archives: Youth Detention

I found this to be spot on!

“Prison Chaplain — a ‘remembrancer’
In such a context, I think, the easy distinction between ministry that is unquestioningly supportive and one that is prophetically transforming does not actually make a great deal of sense. It’s true that, because of the isolation of people from their usual support systems, confrontation, and the explicit call to repentance or change, are not likely to be helpful, to say the least; they may have short term effect — but only as another way of offering a new and ‘safe’ identity in a strange land. But a ministry that asks no questions will not, as I’ve said, bring people nearer to what will genuinely feed or sustain them. The notion that seems to me to capture what most matters here is that of a ministry of ‘reminding’. The chaplain, to use an old fashioned word, is a ‘remembrancer’. Central to a ministry conceived in these terms is the patience to explore the vulnerability that underlies the pressure towards reinventing yourself in the way that new institutions encourage. Central also is the willingness to work with someone to bring to light a vital sense of what in fact has made them the person they are, what still shapes reactions and expressed instincts.”

April 17-18

-17th from 9:00 a.m. to the 18th at noon

“Could you not keep watch with me even one hour?” Matthew 26:40

Youth-Chaplaincy-Coalition and Faith Action Network (FAN) invite you to a virtual and placed prayer and meditation vigil raising consciousness for youth affected by incarceration, racism, and gun violence. 

Event link: Here.


Anyone and everyone can participate in the vigil! This event has purposely been scheduled during Holy Week in the Christian Tradition and this vigil is open to all people of all faiths (or of no particular faith) who wish to raise consciousness for youth affected by incarceration, racism, and gun violence.

The VIRTUAL vigil begins at 9:00 pm PST on Maundy Thursday, April 17 and continues through the night until NOON PST on Long Friday, April 18.

The PLACED vigil will be observed in silence from 6 am – Noon on Long Friday, April 18 in the Chapel at Epiphany Parish Seattle. Information from the Washington Alliance for Responsible Gun Ownership, FAN, The Church Council of Greater Seattle, and YCC will be available at Epiphany. If you would like to share silent prayer and meditation in community please join us in Epiphany’s Chapel.

IF you want your NAME and/or a Prayer or Message included on a prayer chain we’re creating to bring with us to Juvie in May to show the youth visually how many folks were and are keeping watch with them, please RSVP yes and/or post a comment. We will add a link to the chain with your first name on it.

We’ve invited almost 800 people to participate – wouldn’t it be awesome if we had hundreds of links in our chain showing the youth how connected we are? Please SHARE the invitation with everyone and anyone you think would keep watch with youth affected by incarceration, racism, and gun violence. We will share photos of the prayer chain after the retreats in May.

If you would like to see prayers, readings, and images posted by YCC on the hour throughout vigil please like the the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition FB page.

Once you sign up you don’t need to do anything, but pray or meditate. If you’re moved toward action beyond this vigil – may it be so.

With deep gratitude for your witness and love,

Emily Linderman, Chaplain Intern
& The Rev. Terri Stewart, Founder and Director
The Youth Chaplaincy Coalition



flickr photo by Wes Peck cc licensed (BYNC ND )

flickr photo by Wes Peck
cc licensed (BY NC ND )

Active listening is:

  • Hearing what the person says
  • Identifying and labeling the feelings a speaker experiences
  • Listening for undercurrent feelings not explicitly expressed by the speaker
  • Recognizing personal values and personal history revealed in conversation
  • Being empathetic, not sympathetic. Truly try to understand how the other person might be feeling without being judgmental. Your youth doesn’t want pity, but does want to feel like you understand, even if you can’t specifically relate the situation to your own life.

Some verbal response techniques for active listening include:

  • Paraphrases: Restatements of the speaker’s feeling or meaning in your own words. Paraphrases help against miscommunication and can clarify feelings.
    • “So, what I’m hearing you say is the security guard accused you of stealing the shirt, and called you a liar when you said it was paid for.”
  • Feeling reflections: Statements that focus on the emotions or feelings you observe in the speaker. This validates emotions.
    • “It sounds like you were angry when the guard accused you of stealing the shirt.”
  • Clarifications: Questions or comments to elicit more information from the speaker and to double-check your and the speaker’s understanding of the problem.
    • “And you said this happened yesterday?”
  • Neutral statements: Brief verbal responses that show the speaker that you are following the conversation.
    • “Mmhm. Gotcha. Then what?”
  • Summaries: Organizing statements that capture the speaker’s emotions and concerns concisely. A summary helps integrate the information you’ve heard, leads to new directions in conversation, and helps wrap up a listening session.
    • “Let me see if I understand you correctly. You feel thios situation is unfair and your first reaction was to get angry.”

Some non-verbal queues in active listening include:

  • Look the person in the eye. Good eye contact shows that you are paying attention and take the conversation seriously. Watching the speaker also lets you read thje speaker’s body language, which may say a lot about how she feels.
  • Use natural posture. Be relaxed. Slouching, resting your head on your hands or crossing your arms on your chest can signal boredom, fatigue, or restlessness.
  • Sit in a helping position. If you sit across from a person with a table in between, you may put yourself in an “oppositional” stance. Sit at an angle and lean slightly towards (but don’t crowd out!) your youth.

Adapted from the Work Group for Community Health and Development Community Tool Box, 2013. “Building Youth Mentor Relationships.” Available at 

This is an offering from a chaplain friend, Heather Thomason. She is in the ordination process with the Disciples of Christ. This is her take on assisting people through grief. Although she works at a hospital, there is connective tissue to the trauma and grief that the youth within the juvenile detention centers. The story she offers us is a life-long journey through the valleys.

My heart is pounding. My palms are sweaty. I can feel the grief in the room as the neurosurgeon enters. I am sitting with a family who is being told one of their children is already dead and the other has such a significant injury that doctors see little hope for their survival. I think to myself as I listen to the surgeon talk to the sobbing father, “This will be a very long grief process for them.” My heart breaks and a week later when the child is removed from life support, I say goodbye to her as I cry. My tears drop on her arm as if to baptize the grief process for her family.

I sit with another family as they receive the news: their son will never walk again or have a “normal” life. He will need to be on a ventilator, wheelchair and will require constant care. His spinal cord injury is never going to heal. It is a very different life than the one his family envisioned for him just a week prior. His mother cries.

I walk down the hospital hallway and see a woman sitting on a bench. She is sobbing, almost uncontrollably. I sense that she needs someone to talk to so I gently touch her shoulder, and say, “It looks like you might need some support.” She gets up, latches onto me in a bear hug, and screams, “Yes, it’s my husband!” She continues to cry. As we sit down together, she tells me about their life and how much he means to her and also about how this heart episode is so unexpected. I run into her in the hallway a few days later and her husband is doing well. We rejoice.

The undercurrent of all these stories is grief. Grief that threatens to consume us because the life we once lived has been shattered. How do you “get over” the death of a child? How do you “deal with” the lost expectations you held for the life of a loved one? How do you “move on” from a near-death experience that happened to the most important person in your life? I put these questions partially in quotation marks because that is what our society teaches us we do in the face of grief: We move on, we get over it, we deal with it. When grief threatens to consume our very lives, we stuff our emotions into phrases which we think are going to help us make meaning of events that sometimes are impossible to make meaning from. How do we find a new normal when our lives will never be normal again? Admitting that, to many people, makes them feel afraid of the judgment they will receive from others who have “gotten over,” “dealt with” or “moved on” from a traumatic event.

We say to ourselves, “My mom got over her miscarriage so I should too.” “My best-friend moved on from the death of her mom way faster than I am dealing with mine.” “Someday I shouldn’t think about the sister I lost when we were both little, right?” Get over it. Move on. Deal with it. Then you’re all better and your life will go on as normal. Except that it doesn’t. We tell ourselves it will but it doesn’t. The grief lingers for years. Every time I see a child whose hair is the same color as my baby’s. Every time I smell the cigars my grandpa used to smoke. Each time something triggers a memory, I feel that grief. Sure, it might not be as pointed but it is still there. It will always be there. And the lie we tell ourselves each time that trigger happens, is “I should be over this by now. How long is it going to take?” Avoiding grief is ingrained deep into our culture and we enter into the lie unconsciously.

Having worked with people in the midst of their grief process I have made some interesting observations and been privy to very private and intimate details of how people make meaning of the traumatic events they suffer. The first is that everyone’s grief process is different. Some people start at anger, some in denial, and some never start a process at all. Everyone is different and I have personally witnessed people bursting into tears, collapsing on the floor, laughing, vomiting or a combination of all of the above, when they experience a grief-inducing life event. The lie our society tells us is that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to work through grief. While there are certainly healthier behaviors than others, I don’t believe there is a “correct” starting place in a grief process. What I do as a chaplain is meet people where they are, encourage them to be gentle with themselves in whatever their process is going to look like, and provide support as they make meaning out of their life-altering event. It’s not my work to do, it’s theirs. I don’t push or force the work; I walk alongside people as they walk their grief-path.

My supervisor here at the hospital likes to remind us that when a life-altering event occurs the good chaplains are the ones who go into the Valley of the Shadow of Death with the people we serve, alongside them. We don’t force them to go to places they aren’t willing or able, but we show them they are not alone and even though the Valley is deep, dark, and long, there is the other side and we will be with them until they reach it. Even when they do, it’s a good reminder that they are not completely finished; they are just through the darkest part of the Valley.

The second observation I have made is the expansion of my own capacity to absorb, process and return to normal, after having done that deep, dark walk in the Valley with folks. When you do it all the time, you have to be able to let go of people where they are at in their process and hope they have the support they need once they leave the hospital room to keep the work going. Sometimes, knowing someone doesn’t have support but they can’t stay with us is the hardest part of the work I do. I pray for those folks every day.

The third observation is the constancy of our society pressuring people not to go into the Valley. “Fill your time with distractions and then you won’t feel the pain of your loss or potential loss,” it says. But that is a lie. When we don’t do our work to make meaning out of life events, or we do our work but it’s inauthentic or incomplete, we risk profoundly altering who we are. When we don’t do our work we drink, we work too much, we engage in other risky behaviors, we have health problems, we snap at those closest to us, we kill ourselves. When we don’t go into the Valley, whether out of fear or for other reasons, we change. And most of the time, this change is not for the better.

So the next time your best friend brings up that miscarriage she had or your brother brings up how hard it is around the holidays without his wife, recognize the grief in those events and realize that grief will never be completely gone. Sure, they will hopefully process it and make meaning in their own way, but that twinge will always be there. It is our role as support people, and my role as a chaplain, to walk alongside them as they look into the deep, black abyss that is the Valley, and say, “I’m right here, not going anywhere. You take as long as you need; baby step by baby step.” One day, they will look up and see the sun shining, the bottom of the Valley behind them, and they will notice the two sets of footprints on the path behind. You will be there with their hand in your hand, and give it a gentle squeeze as if to say, “You did the work and you survived.”

Making that first step into the Valley is terrifying because we don’t know if we are going to see the other side, or if we do, how long that process will take. Some people never finish that work and are consumed in the depths of the Valley. Others take a few steps down and realize how hard the work is and retreat to their life of distractions and periodic meltdowns because, we falsely think, that is so much easier emotionally. Some enter into it and make it through to the other side where they find a new way to do life. I wish I could provide answers for people or a “grief checklist” that folks can use in order to make meaning out of their life event. It would be so much easier to do it that way and that is what our society tells us: “Make this as easy as possible.” Except that a grief process isn’t supposed to be easy. We are supposed to struggle, to lament, to get angry, to mourn the loss, to cry. We grieve because it’s the hardest thing we will do as people. It’s supposed to be a difficult process because we have suffered a profound loss which we struggle to understand. True grief is hard.

Otherwise it wouldn’t be grief.

by Aniket Thakur CC license (BY) via Flickr

by Aniket Thakur
CC license (BY) via Flickr





This is a quandary in Washington state and is wrapped up in state constitutional protections, law, and what we consider being in the best interest of the state and it is something I’m working with and am perplexed at this moment in time. It makes for great thought, I think…

In Washington state, public records are open constitutionally. This includes youth records. Technically including kids arrested, gone through dependency hearings, etc. (abused kids could find their records plastered all over). The way it works right now is that youth can work to seal their records over time as long as they accomplish a checklist. This is a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped because data/electronics means the records are out there. PLUS, Washington state sells the youth records to background check firms while they are still minors.

There is support in both houses to make youth records confidential. Confidentiality is better than sealing because it shuts the door before the horse is out. Sealing shuts the door afterwards.

But in order to make youth records confidential, the IT system has to be updated to accommodate some change in the record in the database that doesn’t make sense to me because making another field in a database really isn’t that hard. BUT whatever, the fiscal note is that it would take $500,000 do make an IT adjustment to attach to the confidential record bill that is currently in play. This would also, according to the IT people, stop the current and planned upgrade in its tracks and put all the IT people onto this problem and not on the upgrade.

There is thoughts of tweaking the bill to do the confidentiality thing but to implement in 5 years.

All in all, this is making me nuts. It seems so simple. (1) Don’t sell youth records. (2) Let’s just treat kids like kids and make their records confidential.

The upshot is that to make the lives and opportunities of youth that are in the most marginalized group (impoverished, undereducated, incarcerated), we could simply make their records confidential so it is easier for them to get a job and to get into college.

The interesting points, now that you’ve slogged through my current issue (and you thought be a chaplain was all spiritual God stuff!):

Where do we draw the line of competing interests such as state/child? And where does it stop being a “state” interest (open records) and it is being transformed into a “corporate” interest (credit bureaus, rental agencies, and newspapers are buying the records)? Is there a difference between state interests and corporate interests? Do you have an assumption that youth’s records are protected?

Where should the line be drawn?

Have you seen OJJDP’s study on long term incarceration of juveniles?

Just a few key points:

Finding #1: Longer stays in juvenile facilities do not reduce reoffending; institutional placement raised offending levels in even those with the lowest level of offending.

Finding #2: Adolescents who have committed serious offenses are not necessarily on track for adult criminal careers.

Finding #3: Substance use is a major factor in continued criminal activity by serious adolescent offenders.

Dr. Joy DeGruy author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome”

to Speak at the Edmonds School District Thursday 10/24, 7-9:30 p.mFrom Darlene Flynn, City of Seattle:

“Hello all,

In collaboration with the Edmonds School District, The Hazel Miller Foundation, Communities of Color Coalition and Families of Color United In Service (FOCUIS), I am excited and proud to let you all know we will be hosting Dr. Joy DeGruy author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” to Speak at the Edmonds School District Thursday October 24th 7-9:30 p.m.

This event is FREE and seating is limited.

The Edmonds School District is located at:

20420 68th Ave W Lynnwood, WA 98036 (just south of Edmonds Community College)

Dr. DeGruy is the foremost expert on Black historical trauma and its effects on the community today.

Dr. DeGruy’s presentation is a call for us all to identify the manifestations of trauma, a call to healing and a call to action.

We look forward to you seeing you Thursday October 24th from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Edmonds School District!

For more information on events like this, please join FOCUIS on Facebook

Daniel VanArsdale
Director of Families of Color United In Service (FOCUIS)

Juvenile Justice Zine release party thrown by WISH

(Washington Incarceration Stops Here),

Friday, 10/11 7-10pm, at Queer Youth Space (upstairs at 911 E. Pike Street).
Full invitation from WISH as follows:
“I am writing to let you know that WISH has just finished compiling a great zine – Plan A - featuring poetry, art, and articles presenting a vision for alternatives to the new youth jail and juvenile courts.

“We will be having a zine release party on Friday, October 11th, and would love it if you and your members (and anyone else you think may be interested) can attend. The party will be at Queer Youth Space from 7-10pm. It will feature a short program, including speakers discussing WISH and poetry from zine authors, followed by lots of music, dancing, and refreshments! Although we won’t have any formal tabling, please feel free to bring any materials from your organization that you would like to share. You can click on the links below to see the facebook event page and the new postings to WISH’s blog:

The members of WISH

The Seattle Social Justice Film Festival is back! Films will cover all aspects of social justice but, in conjunction with their lead sponsor, Books to Prisoners, this year’s special festival focus will be on issues related to Prisoner Justice. More information here.

Opening Night:

Mothers of Bedford

October 10th, 5pm

The Market Theater

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Books to Prisoners!

Join Books to Prisoners for a special Opening Night Celebration screening of Mothers of Bedford as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the festival’s Founding Sponsor, Books to Prisoners.

Is it possible to become a better mother while serving time in a maximum security prison?  Mothers of Bedford, a feature length documentary, follows five women incarcerated in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and looks at their lives through the lens of motherhood.

The film examines the struggles and joys these five women face as prisoners and mothers. It shows the normal frustrations of parenting as well as the surreal experiences of a child’s first birthday party inside prison, the cell that child lives in with her mother, and the biggest celebration of the year, Mother’s Day in prison!

Following the film, there will be a Q&A with Tanya Erzen and Traci Matheson.

Tanya Erzen, Ph.D. is a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow and teaches at the University of Puget Sound.   She is the director of the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a college program in the Washington Corrections Center for Women.  FEPPS works in collaboration with the Village, an organization formed by women inside the prison.  Since January 2012, FEPPS has offered 20 college courses and a monthly lecture series at the prison taught by professors from the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma Community College, Evergreen and the University of Washington.

Traci Matheson spent 11 years at Washington Corrections Center for Women.  She is now a full-time student and a hair stylist.

I will be presenting on the Prison Industrial Complex at this criminal justice workshop. Would love to see some folks there!



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