Spreading Hope at StatevilleHow Major Ed Tutewiler sparked transformation for those considered unreachable.
For 19 years, Major Ed Tutewiler served as chaplain to an unusual “congregation.” His flock included a man 12 years into a 90-year prison sentence, CEOs who have spent years in federal custody, a guy with a sixth-grade education, disgraced former politicians, men who grew up on the streets and have never held a job.
It’s a tough crowd. But Major Tutewiler, correctional services chaplain for The Salvation Army’s Metropolitan Division, before retiring earlier this year, remained undaunted as he taught budgeting, goal setting, ethics and other life skills classes to inmates at facilities like Chicago’s Cook County Jail and Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, IL, and counseled men at the Army’s Pathway Forward, a reintegration program for individuals returning to the community after being incarcerated. He knows from experience that he represents a God who specializes in redeeming lost lives. And over the past 19 years, he says these men gave him the gift of watching life transformations that defied all expectations, especially their own.
Small World, Big Changes
While he’s been surprised at the wide range of people in the Pathway Forward program, Major Tutewiler says he’s noticed a similar struggle most of them share: addiction. Whether it’s addiction to drugs, alcohol, money or power, he says that motivates them to do whatever they have to—healthy or not, legal or not—to keep that thing in their lives.
“So many decisions in their past have brought a negative outcome,” Major Tutewiler says. “We would discuss what other decisions could have led to a positive outcome. We would talk about considering the consequences before they act.”
In Pathway Forward, where clients have already served their time and are working to reestablish their lives, these discussions take place alongside job training, education, counseling and other programs designed to help each person defy the odds and not return to prison.
Inside the prison, these discussions are part of voluntary classes and impact lives that might never see the world outside the prison system. Though these clients’ worlds are smaller, the life transformations Major Tutewiler has seen have often been quite large.
“A number of individuals go through this process and their thinking begins to change,” he says. They start small—for example, talking about the fact that if they want something from the court system, the inmates have to use their language and procedure. “They can’t just do it the way they’ve always tried, the street way,” says the major. When they begin to share their grievances with the institution in proper language, they get the results they want.
“One inmate at Stateville was tagged as difficult to work with,” Major Tutewiler says, going on to explain that he worked with him a while before the man began to understand the importance of following procedures and rules. “When he got it, he moved quickly from high escape-risk to a model prisoner with a job in prison. He learned how to communicate without being threatening.”
Often these life changes lead to the types of successes these individuals have never known before. “One guy had only a sixth-grade education. He was kicked out of middle school, told he wasn’t bright enough. He began to discover he had value, enrolled in college classes, and is now on the honor roll. He had no idea he was capable of all that.
“Many of them learn they can do far more than others told them they could. They learn they do have value. That’s one of the most incredible things I’ve witnessed these past 19 years. They’ve shown me how much value they have.”
Hope and Respect
Major Tutewiler’s work reflects the very heart of The Salvation Army. Founder William Booth didn’t expect those in need to come to him in a church, he went out to the most vulnerable in society, meeting their practical needs and offering the love and hope of Christ.
“In the prison system, if you lose hope, you’ve lost it all. There’s nothing left,” Major Tutewiler said. “And hope is one of the things that faith brings.”
Often faith has been the catalyst for the life changes he witnessed, bringing transformation in radical ways. One individual serving a life sentence for a crime he committed at age 16 became a Christian. “He got a college degree and decided to serve God in prison,” Major Tutewiler says. “Another individual sharpened a staple to scrape a gang tattoo off his face.” He didn’t want to die someday and leave to meet his Maker with that etched on his body.
“It’s an amazing gift they’ve given to me—to see their faith, to see them overcome their hard pasts.”
Major Tutewiler, in turn, has given them the gift of being remembered and respected. Every Christmas, a small group of Salvation Army staff and band members go into local state, county and juvenile prisons to sing carols, pass out candy, calendars and the War Cry and share the story of Christmas. Through our Angel Tree program, more than 2,000 inmates’ families receive Christmas gifts, with tags saying they’re from the inmate. And the Army’s music division has just started a new music program in the juvenile detention facility.
During the caroling sessions, the inmates express appreciation for being remembered, especially at a time of year that can be difficult for incarcerated individuals. “Last Christmas, one warden stopped me and thanked us for bringing a little humanity to a very inhumane place,” Major Tutewiler says. It was a bittersweet experience as it was his last Christmas in the prisons before entering retirement.
As he considers his nearly 20 years of correctional services chaplaincy, Major Tutewiler says he treasures most the people and the lessons they have taught him. “Someone once asked me, when they learned I worked in prisons, ‘Isn’t it hard to work with monsters?’” he recalls. “’There are no monsters at Stateville,’ I told her. ‘Just people who have done some monstrous things. And there but for the grace of God go you and I.’”
Photo Caption: Visiting correctional facilities is particularly critical during the Christmas season, when loneliness and estrangement are felt acutely by the incarcerated. Bands such as this one from the Army’s Metropolitan Division are a key ingredient of the outreach, upholding the Army’s commitment to Jesus’ words “I was in prison, and you visited me.”
Camerin Courtney Mattson is communications manager for the Army’s Metropolitan Division, headquartered in Chicago.
A Continuum of Services for the Incarcerated
Salvation Army Correctional Services is a ministry based on the idea that people are not irredeemable, but they must be shown the way, beginning with compassion. Demonstrating to people they aren’t abandoned in the abyss of consequences, the Army reaches out to individuals who are imprisoned and to the families left behind. The Correctional Services offer a continuum of Christian compassion and care. Services range from Bible correspondence courses, pre-release job-training programs, employment opportunities in cooperation with parole personnel, material aid and spiritual guidance to both prisoners and their families. Salvation Army officers and volunteers lead worship services in jails and prisons. Counseling and emergency assistance also are available to crime victims.
The War Cry supports the Army’s commitment to visit the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned by sending copies of each edition to 590 correctional centers in the U.S.
Through cooperative arrangements with prison, probation and parole officials throughout the country, the Army plays a growing role in prison rehabilitation and crime prevention. In some jurisdictions, prisoners are paroled to the direct custody of The Salvation Army.
Many Army adult rehabilitation centers and harbor light centers have served as designated halfway houses where former prisoners can participate in work-release programs. Those convicted of minor offenses often are given the opportunity to accept placement in community service programs at corps community centers and institutions as an alternative to incarceration, or in the last months of their sentences.
Last year, correctional services resulted in:
- 3,856 visits to correctional facilities, with 1,288 volunteers involved.
- 25,044 offenders/inmates visited.
- 66,070 meetings conducted.
- 7,526 participants in the Bible Correspondence Course, with almost 100,000 lessons received in one month alone.
- 62,157 persons assigned to Salvation Army supervision, with about 12,110 volunteers involved.
- 7,979 visits to courts, with 16,190 cases involving aid.
- 16,180 participants in the Prison Toy program.
The Army’s Bible Correspondence Course provides free Bible studies for prison inmates that are desiring a better understanding of God, their faith and the Church. Courses follow in consecutive order. Participants complete a lesson, which includes several Bible verses, then handwrite answers to a test from a workbook.
The 12–course program features six basic and six advanced lessons. The basic courses include “Life of Christ,” “The Christian Life,” “The Early Church,” “The Early Beginnings,” “History of a Nation,” and “Survey Course.”
As soon as a course is completed and returned by mail, the next course is sent to the student. All courses require the use of a Bible and a study guide. A study guide is included with the lesson. Each lesson is reviewed by staff members and volunteers in regional Salvation Army locations, and made a matter of prayer, guidance and encouragement. Graders mail the results to the inmates, along with other items, such as a Bible or Christian books.
For programs in your area and to explore volunteer opportunities, please contact your local Salvation Army. Find locations at salvationarmyusa.org