Watershed History Marks
Watershed 1: The First Meetings with Dan Ellis
Unusual and without plan, I asked a few questions, visited the bulletin board, then saw Dan Ellis and presented him with a pay scale equity comparison. We talked and I talked to others who value chaplaincy, then took that leap of faith in asking others to meet with Dan. I consulted with a core group of senior chaplains and they seemed willing and ready to investigate alternatives. On Thursday, June 15, 2000, I called our first meeting at the Golden Corel in Huntsville. Carol Vance, Emmett Solomon, Jim Young (BGCT), a few senior chaplains of the core group and a couple of others came. There was a unanimous consensus to seek legislative guidance and help under the by line "Parity for Chaplains."
Part of the agenda were the words of wisdom from Carol Vance in an e-mail. Though limited to some degree by state law for being an ex-board member, he gave us his moral support and encouragement. Carol pointed out clearly that our cause would not be carried forward on the issue of "pay inequity" alone. At the meeting he reflected again the words of his e-mail:
"Recognize that all people within TDCJ (at least from the lowest CO to Wayne Scott) are grossly underpaid for what they do. Because this is the case, you will not be able to make a case for pay raises on this basis alone. What I think you must do is talk about the inequities within TDCJ insofar as job responsibility, the importance of the job and the qualifications for the job and how considering these three factors that chaplaincy is underpaid by comparison to others within the TDCJ family. I think it is important to differentiate because you can not win the first battle, i.e. chaplains are underpaid when everyone is underpaid. You should be able to get a fair adjustment if a good case is presented for the second argument which is that chaplains are out of line for what they do compared to other qualification requirements within TDCJ."
On Friday, June 16, we met again with Dan Ellis. We explored options and decided to seek full divisional status. Dan said he would write the bill if re-elected and would seek out a Senate co-sponsor. Chaplain Gerald Saffel took up responsibility for our recidivism committee. Emmett and Jim committed themselves as they could to help.
The greatest immediate challenge was to unite the chaplains and organize some data on recidivism and job responsibilities vis a vis other professions.
Watershed 2: Regional Meetings
One June 27, about 25 chaplains met. We outlined where we were and what we had discerned the consensus was concerning the tasks ahead, namely a few Pre- & Post-election strategies. We outlined the legislative time table and needs for the regions to coordinate with other chaplains and begin to network with legislatures. I emphasized the need for regional initiative, as each region is unique. Chaplain Jeff Congdon took the responsibility of coordinator with Dr. Vance Drum and Dr. Benny Hindmon as the core committee for Region 1. Chaplain Paul Polk took the responsibility of coordinator with Chaplain Lloyd Morris and Dr. Timothy Simmons as the core committee for Region 3. Most likely, the hardest work will come in Region 3, as they have more legislative districts than any other single regions.
It was a pleasure to report that Regions 2, 4 & 5 all had coordinators and that similar organizational meetings had already begun: Chaplain Buddy Burton is coordinating Region 2; Chaplain Raymond Woodruff is coordinating Region 4; and Chaplain Duane Spikes is coordinating Region 5. Each of them were identifying and securing places to meet.
We stressed he need for the regional committees to meet several times in the next few months and the need for all chaplains to begin to connect with their legislatures in their districts as soon as possible. There will be another meeting to be determined in Beeville in our free time to address the progress reports, assess direction and see if we really have the chaplains, the energizing commitment and momentum to do this.
The purpose of meeting with the legislatures in one's district was to get acquainted and begin the push for Parity for Chaplains in a fair pay scale/career ladder and with Divisional Status within TDCJ.
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