Fall 2016 Volunteer Newsletter!

texas department of criminal justice

Fall 2016


Welcome TDCJ Executive Director

TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier

Please join the Volunteer Services Department as we welcome Bryan Collier into his new role as the TDCJ Executive Director.   We are very encouraged to know his continued leadership will take TDCJ to new heights.  He has held a wide variety of positions which accounts for over 31 years of knowledge and experience in the criminal justice system.  “I’ve seen firsthand the impact volunteers are having on offenders, victims, and this agency as a whole,” said Collier. “I look forward to continuing to build upon the successes of our outstanding volunteer programs.”  We are excited to welcome Mr. Collier as our TDCJ Executive Director.

Meet New Leadership Continued

TDCJ Deputy Executive Director Oscar Mendoza
Correctional Institutions Division (CID) Director Lorie Davis
CID Deputy Director Prison & Jail Operations Billy Hirsch
CID Deputy Director Management Operations Tracy Bailey
CID Deputy Director Support Operations Leonard Echessa
Private Facility Contract Monitoring/ Oversight Division Director Cody Ginsel
Parole Division Director Pamela Thielke

CVCA Spotlight

Volunteer Mary Ann "Rev Mary" Royal Baird

Mary Ann Royal Baird, otherwise known as ‘Rev. Mary”, began her volunteer service to the State of Texas more than 20 years ago and she has visited the unit over 830 times. Rev. Mary is a Certified Volunteer Chaplain’s Assistant serving at the John T. Montford Psychiatric Facility in Lubbock, Texas.  She is not just your average volunteer; she serves the offenders and staff alike with an unmatched passion and respect for everyone. Simply put, she is “relationally driven”.  Rev. Mary retains a professional, yet extremely personal presence, on the unit as she ministers weekly to the offenders and staff.   

One of her innovative ministry techniques, in 2015, was to create an “Imaginary Prayer Room”. This offered each staff or offender, at a pre-designated time of the day, the encouragement to pray regardless of their confined housing or job assignment. This allows them to pray together in like spirit for the safety, healing and restoration for all offenders and staff. The imaginary prayer room has been a success, particularly with those that are confined to a bed or those that are isolated due to medical or physical limitations. 

 Her life experiences and the ability to overcome huge loss in her own life are only a couple of the many attributes she possesses while she lives out her faith and passion for God and His people. She not only works with our psychiatric patients, but also with offenders admitted to the Western Regional Medical Center, Long Term Care Unit, Dialyses Unit and the SICU Critical Care areas. She gives unselfishly to others as she ministers and patiently waits to see each offender, some of whom are Hospice patients or patients diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.   

She is extremely well suited for a Correctional Ministry setting.  She is creative in her personal outreach, design methods and the way she strives to meet each offender at his or her point of need. She remains aware of the correctional environment as she volunteers at all times. She possesses the knack of being very “life giving” and simply offers herself and her talents to every person to whom she ministers. The Chaplain’s office has grown to depend on her faithfulness, dedication, expertise, and loyalty, as well as the deeply-earned respect at the unit level; she is a constant positive presence on the Montford Unit. Rev. Mary, thank you for giving back, assisting others and praying over the years. 

"If you want peace, work for justice."

Pope Paul VI

Toastmasters Offered Through "Skills For Life"

Toastmaster Speaker

Skills For Life utilizes Toastmasters International Curriculum and incorporates its goals program to teach public speaking, personal responsibility, and servant leadership.  The one requirement for participation in this program is the willingness to learn to speak in public. Some of the goals that this program focuses on are reducing recidivism rates, changing prison culture and involving outside guests in the program. 

Offenders learn how to - research and organize a speech, make eye contact, overcome nervousness, use gestures effectively , apply vocal variety, eliminate vocal pauses and to use props effectively. Participants evaluate one another as they offer constructive criticism to improve, motivate and encourage fellow participants. 

Throughout the regular meeting, impromptu questions are asked and the intended participant must respond for one to two minutes. This practice helps build confidence and the ability to think quickly.  One of the beneficial results, in addition to building self-confidence, is the manner in which they conduct the meetings.  Every individual is treated with dignity and courtesy.  Throughout this program, one can sense the real development of a community.  Participants vary from all races and religions.  If you are interested in starting a Toastmaster Club on a unit or want additional information, please check out the Skills For Life Website

Volunteer & Staff Photos

Offenders singing a thanks during the Huntsville "The Walls" unit volunteer appreciation
St. Dismas Catholic Retreat

From The Desk Of The Volunteer Services Director

In the last volunteer newsletter, I shared my desire to explore stories revolving around restorative justice. As promised, we will explore the great works that volunteers do in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice throughout our Lone Star State. 

Restorative Justice is composed of four stakeholders: victims, communities, justice professionals and offenders.  The principles of Restorative Justice are a way of viewing, understanding, and responding to crime and its effects on society.  Crime is recognized as harm done to an individual or the community, not the state.  Crime is more than breaking the law; it causes harm to all stakeholders.  The offense is viewed as a violation of people and relationships. 

Life Restoration is a unique ministry that has sparked my interest and I would like to share more about it with you.  It began seven years ago and has become Pam Randall’s greatest joy.  She is currently volunteering at Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility.  The ministry began by offering a compassionate heart to the correctional clients that are broken. There are several volunteers that share in Pam’s joy: Joelle Cannon, Barbara Branson, Rhonda Schruab and Maria Moore. Each is valuable to this ministry. 

Baby Love baskets with participants

One of the programs that Life Restoration facilitates is called “Baby Love.” It was birthed out of a program called The Moses Project. Approximately two years ago, Warden McComis approached Pam with the idea for this program.  Pam encouraged her team to brainstorm and they hit the ground running.  Pam describes her team as experts in the areas of ministering, quilting and crocheting.  In the beginning, their goal was to help mothers and newborns in need by supplying small baby beds to families that do not have beds, or room for standard size beds.  Many babies leave the hospital with no place to sleep.  Pam and her experts got right to work and began to manufacture beds, mattresses, mattress covers, sheets, bibs, small toys and quilts for each basket.


Pam expresses that it is a joy to see the correctional clients learn skills that they can take back to their families and communities.  Pam states, “We have an average of 24 individuals that come each Friday to work on the beds and blankets. Also, there is a waiting list of those anxious to join. It is very exciting.”  This project gives the offenders a day to work together, to create, and to be productive as they give back to the community, even while incarcerated.  Pam says that most of the women that volunteer with “Baby Love” have never done any type of handwork prior to this.  It is a great opportunity for volunteers to touch lives within prison walls.   It also develops new skills with the offenders which can lend itself to a greater confidence and an improved self-image.

Baby Love participants gathered around the design table

Currently, Pam has expanded the program by partnering with Wise Choices Pregnancy Center in Wise County, Clear Choices in Bowie, and Pregnancy 4 U in Keller.  Recently, “Baby Love” joined in partnership with Child Protective Services to provide quilts for those in need throughout Texas.

On Friday mornings, Pam teaches a class which is open to the entire unit.  The classes are biblically based with a focus on the reality of Christ in daily life.  “I have found that many girls come to know Christ in prison, but few understand how to walk with Him on a daily basis. By growing and learning more about this daily walk with Christ, they are overcoming adversity and walking in sobriety,” said Pam. “With each class, the girls are responsible for homework and class notes in order to receive a certificate.  God’s word has transforming power!”

As we learn about this ministry, we see that it is a good example of restorative justice. We applaud the following stakeholders in this program: Warden McComis for approaching Pam with such a unique program idea;  Chaplain Yoder for his strong support; Pam and Life Restoration for facilitating this program with TDCJ approved volunteers; community organizations for partnering with Pam and accepting these donations for the less fortunate; and correctional clients from Bridgeport for giving back to society through the “Baby Love” project. 

This is only one of many stories in which volunteers are making a positive impact. Volunteers, from my desk to yours, I thank you for making a difference!  To read more about Life Restoration.

Clint Morris, Volunteer Services Director

Remembering Terry Kreider


On April 19, 2016, Terry came for a regular night of The School of Christ at the Glossbrenner Unit. As the evening ended and students were dismissed, Terry turned to the chalkboard and wrote, “Jesus said, ‘I Am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No man comes to the FATHER but by ME.”

As Terry turned from the chalkboard and gathered his things to leave the unit, he had a heart attack.  The correctional staff went above and beyond tending to his care prior to being transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased.  We give honor to a fellow volunteer that spent his last minutes in this world with the individuals of whom he was called to minister.  Terry is now in the presence of his Heavenly Father rejoicing in glory.

Terry volunteered at Glossbrenner and Willacy County Jail.  Chaplain Lester Fatheree at the Glossbrenner Unit stated, “Terry loved Jesus with all his heart and made a difference in the lives of the offenders.”  Chaplain Virgil Crittenden at the Willacy State Jail shared, “Terry was a great and valuable volunteer ministering in the lives of those individuals at Willacy State Jail.”

We want to thank Lucy – Terry’s wife – for sharing her husband with so many in TDCJ.  Terry and Lucy spent 30 years of their lives together, working together, ministering together, and always loving together. Lucy states, “He was a keeper,” she said, “a loving husband - very caring and giving.”

Kreider family by painting in memory of Terry Kreider

The giving in Terry’s heart becomes obvious when one looks at his service to TDCJ. What a legacy Terry leaves in the lives of so many.  Volunteering in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since 2006, Terry made over 400 visits, totaling over 900 hours of volunteer service.  The number of lives he touched, with the gospel of Christ, is in the thousands.  The total impact of his life and work will only be known in eternity.

Terry Kreider was honored during the Glossbrenner/Duvall County Fallen Officers memorial service in May 2016.  The unit decided to recreate the chalkboard and quote, exactly as Terry wrote it.   It is a worthy tribute to the dedicated service, not only of Terry, but also of every volunteer who gives of themselves through their time and resources to make a difference across the state. He was highly thought of by our Agency staff and by the offenders to whom he ministered.

In memory of Terry, we say to all of you, thank you.

The Life Of A Chaplain

Chaplain Dunn & Greg Hurst of KHOU-TV

News Anchor Greg Hurst of KHOU TV in Houston spent the day with Chaplain Debbie Dunn at the Plane State Jail.  This story gives insight into the heart of chaplains and volunteers as we partner together to make a difference in the lives of many. To view the video click on  KHOU-TV Houston

Family Volunteer Initiative In Visitation

The Rehabilitation Programs Division (RPD) wishes to thank the 25,121 volunteers for partnering with TDCJ and helping to reduce the recidivism rate to 21.4%.  RPD is encouraging volunteer organizations, including faith-based organizations, to partner with us on increasing volunteer programs and family friendly activities during unit visitation. 

Statistics show that 75% of prisoners grew up without a father. (Daniel Amneus, The Garbage Generation, Alhambra, CA: Primrose Press, 1990).  RPD recognizes the importance for offenders to establish or maintain good relationships with family.  When offenders are re-entering society family reunification is an important piece of the puzzle. 

To assist in bringing families together, Forgiven Ministries partners with 25 churches to provide a family-friendly visitation. They initiated “Ezekiel’s Room”  a first of its kind, in the state of North Carolina. It is a room set aside for children to enjoy during each inmate visitation period.  A team of five to seven adult workers lead the children in a time of praise and worship, a Bible story, a prayer for children’s needs, and a craft that will share Jesus with them. The time that children spend in Ezekiel’s Room allows parents to have a time of family focused discussions. This is one program that has an opportunity to positively impact the families of correctional clients. 

Here are some possible ideas that that volunteer organizations might be interested in providing:

  • A hospitality program where volunteers would hand out water and snacks
  • Story time for children that may provide a reading area facilitated by volunteers 
  • Volunteer ministerial outreach (prayer, discussion, etc.)
  • Relationship classes for visitors that are interested

We wish to thank the volunteers that are currently providing services in visitation.  We appreciate the value that you have placed on family.

As fellow Texans, we know when we partner with one another, we can and do make a difference in this great state of ours.  We look forward to your continued support in expanding our volunteer initiative in visitation.  We are excited to hear your ideas!  Let's unite to bring families together and place the family at the dinner table once again. Please send your ideas and suggestions to Clint Morris or the Volunteer Services Department by submitting suggestions by email: VolunteerServices@ tdcj.texas.gov

Submit A Volunteer For A Governor's Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award

The Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Awards were created in 1995 through collaborative efforts between the Office of Governor and the Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ). These awards are designated to honor volunteers, to include a TDCJ employee volunteer and a Criminal Justice Administrator who have made an outstanding contribution to the mission of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ): to provide public safety, promote positive change in behavior, reintegrate offenders into society, and assist victims of crime.  The agency encourages volunteers to become involved in the nomination process.  Do you know of an individual or organization you wish to nominate for one or more of the following categories?

  • Volunteer of the Year Award
  • Restorative Justice Award
  • Female Offender Program Award
  • Most Innovative Program Award
  • Community Service Award
  • Best Family Program Award
  • TDCJ Employee Volunteer Award
  • Criminal Justice Administrator Award

Complete a Nomination Form, send the original application to Volunteer Services c/o Lisa Langley at Two Financial Plaza, Ste. 472, Huntsville, Texas 77340; or email a scanned copy.  The deadline for nomination applications is November 30, 2016.  

Review the criteria carefully to ensure the volunteer and/or organization meets eligibility for the award.  All nominations should represent volunteers who are currently providing service, represent a diversity of volunteers serving the TDCJ, and represent the impact of their volunteer service upon the programming and rehabilitation of offenders within the agency's custody/and or supervision, their families and/or victims. 

Send Your Volunteer Photos To Us

Volunteer Services would love to see what our volunteers are doing across Texas.  Please send your photos to Clint Morris or the Volunteer Services Department by  by email:  VolunteerServices@ tdcj.texas.gov