Raising Hope… in Jail, in Hearts
|by Fran Joyce, December 2011 Issue|
Life is a journey filled with unforeseen twists and turns, tremendous joys, unspeakable sorrows, and daily choices. Not everyone makes the best choices for their life. Thirty thousand men and women will make choices this year that bring them into the world of Reverend Kimberly Greway. Greway is the Director of Chaplaincy Services for the Allegheny County Jail and the Executive Director of the Foundation of H.O.P.E. – Helping Open People’s Eyes.
You might wonder why a young, intelligent, attractive woman would choose such a challenging career; Kimberly Greway is no ordinary woman. According to Greway, “My family was aware that I was called to the ministry long before I ever realized it or heard the call myself. My family and friends are very supportive of my ministry. They are interested in how they can help what we do at the jail and often volunteer when needed.”
Greway grew up in the North Hills and graduated from Allegheny College with a major in French and minors in political science, religion, and women’s studies. She spent two and a half years in the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe before graduating from The Divinity School at Duke University. While in seminary, she served two churches in North Carolina and worked as a prison chaplain. Upon graduation, she was assigned to the British Methodist Church in England for one year. Next, Greway spent four years at Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church serving as Associate Pastor, Director of Christian Education, and Director of Youth Ministries.
Eighteen months ago, she became Director of Chaplaincy Services at the Allegheny County Jail. Greway coordinates with two other Protestant clergy, a Catholic priest, and a Muslim imam. Together, they conduct twenty-two services for various denominations every weekend. Her office receives over two-thousand requests each month from inmates. Inmates often feel lost living among strangers in the crowded and noisy environment of the jail. “As Chaplains,” she states “we do a lot of listening. Very often inmates just want someone to listen to their story.” She considers the art of listening to be one of the primary skills necessary to a successful ministry wherever it may be. “People often feel a peace they had not felt before when someone finally listens to them.”
Working at a jail is challenging because of the transitory nature of the population. On average, 80 people come through the jail daily; about half will not make bail and will be added to the inmate population. Inmates are awaiting trial while others have been convicted and sentenced. To remain at the jail after sentencing one must be sentenced to two years or fewer of incarceration. The Allegheny Jail currently houses around 2,500 inmates and faces change daily with new arrests, releases and transfers. It’s impossible to see every person who passes through the doors, but Greway tries to meet with as many inmates as possible.
Greway admits that women are often tougher to work with than men. They can be needy and seek attention. When a woman is arrested, she is processed, photographed, searched, and given a uniform. She is classified as a minimum, medium, or maximum security risk and transferred to a living pod reserved for female inmates. There are 35 Pods at the jail; a standard pod has 56 cells on two levels which surround a Day Area where meals are served and leisure time is spent. Inmates are notified of the services available to them: one of those services is the H.O.P.E. Program.
In 2002, the Chaplain’s office developed and implemented The H.O.P.E. Program. Helping Open People’s Eyes is a faith-based pre-and post-release program consisting of discipleship, practical resources, and one on one mentoring. The program is open to any inmate in minimum or medium security. The only requirement is the desire to work toward changing your life in a positive way. The recidivism rate for Allegheny County inmates is 65%. Recidivism rates for male graduates of H.O.P.E are 18% and 16% for female graduates. Greway hopes to see the program expand to other institutions.
Greway oversees both the eight week H.O.P.E. Program which includes 210 hours of group work, participation, homework, and the Aftercare Program. Under Greway, the program stresses consistentcy. H.O.P.E. also added a final exam to make the participants more accountable. The Pre-Release program can be repeated multiple times. Participants are assigned to groups and members of the group are responsible for each other. Together, they work to improve interpersonal relationship skills, life skills, and parenting skills. They also work on addiction and recovery issues. According to Greway, addiction issues are at the root of many criminal offenses.
Hundreds of volunteers serve the Chaplaincy Program and H.O.P.E. as instructors, mentors, worship leaders, volunteer chaplains, and after care workers. Willing H.O.P.E. participants are matched with a mentor who will help them acclimate back into society after release. The first 48 hours after release are crucial. They must find housing and a job. They must also resist the influences that led them to commit criminal acts in the first place. Sometimes these influences are friends, family members, or other loved ones. Making sure they have someone to turn to is vital. After-care support lets them know they are valued and keeps them focused on their ultimate goal – to stay out of jail and become a productive member of society.
Greway has instituted a Stewardship class as part of the HO.P.E. program. According to Greway, “We examine and learn about many aspects of being a good steward – someone who cares for things that are not theirs. One important aspect of being a good steward is being generous with and caring for the poor.” Participants in H.O.P.E. can earn credits through improved participation in class and homework which allow their group to help orphans in Zimbabwe. Greway then matches their credits with a community sponsor who agrees to donate the $100 needed to send a child in Zimbabwe to school for a year. Participants receive letters from their sponsored orphan, and they get to affect someone’s life in a positive way. Often this is a real turning point for an inmate. Ninety-five percent of men in the H.O.P.E. program and over 50% of the women report never having a loving father figure. The chance to offer encouragement and support to an orphan is empowering and inspirational for those who participate.
When asked about her many successes, Greway humbly replied, “I consider my greatest success has been serving the downtrodden and the forgotten, from sex workers in Zimbabwe and inmates in jail to those hurting silently in the South Hills. Each group needs to be reminded that they are loved by God, and that love will never fail.” Not one to rest on her accomplishments, Greway plans to someday return to school to earn a Ph.D. in liturgical studies.
So, why would a young, intelligent, attractive woman choose such a challenging career? I’ll let Greway tell you in her own words, “As Director of Chaplaincy Services at the Allegheny County Jail, I am humbled by God’s call on my life to serve the least, the lost, and many times the forgotten.”
Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor to an orphan in Zimbabwe should contact The Nyadire Connection for more information.
Volunteers for the Chaplaincy Program and H.O.P.E. Programs are needed. Interested parties should contact the Chaplain’s Office at the Allegheny County Jail at 950 Second Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15219 or call 412-350-2057.
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This article is possible in part by the sponsorship of Clean Green Cleaning, a local cleaning service that uses only non-toxic, environmentally friendly products. Sponsors have no editorial input but Clean Green owner Jackie Quimpo, know the importance of ‘cleaning up’ your life. Jackie is happy to be part of Wise Women and its support of dynamic women.