PBS features LA restorative justice ministry

Episcopal News Service tells the story of the Rev. Dennis Gibbs and his work as a jail chaplain at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles,

The Rev. Dennis Gibbs received an urgent phone call from a New York City stranger right after a PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly segment featured Gibbs’ chaplaincy at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, one of the country’s largest jails.

“He saw the part of the segment where I talked rather transparently about my own past at the jail. He said ‘I’m an alcoholic and I need help. I feel that you can help me.’ That’s a powerful connection,” recalled Gibbs, director of Prism, the restorative justice ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Daily, powerful connections are what Gibbs hopes for.

Once jailed at Twin Towers for petty crimes relating to drug and alcohol addiction, he now oversees five other staff and 50 volunteers in seven correctional and other facilities in the Los Angeles diocese.

“I just really want everyone to know, there is no ‘us or them,’ no throwaway people. Nobody is beyond the grasp of God’s grace. And that we are simply there to love people,” said Gibbs during a June 24 telephone interview.

“As chaplains we absorb people’s sadness, their brokenness, their depth of spiritual despair,” Gibbs told PBS correspondent Saul Gonzalez during a segment which is still being aired in local markets throughout the country.

He and other chaplains of varying faiths “hold for these inmates what they cannot hold for themselves,” he added.

Gibbs said he considers the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, which houses more than 3,000 men accused of murder and other violent crimes, as his parish. He and other Episcopal chaplains assisted by volunteers lead worship and prayer, Bible study and offer spiritual counseling there and at other men’s, women’s and juvenile correctional facilities, hospitals and medical clinics and at a residential center for abused children.

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