New Jail Curriculum

Collaborating with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell, this month I have been designing a new curriculum for studying faith and literature at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). In 1980, at the University of New Orleans (UNO), Canon Barnwell started developing a program which would eventually be called The Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB). TLB is based on his original class in the “Bible as Literature” in the UNO English Department. From the mid-eighties, Canon Barnwell continued to work on TLB for both the university and at his churches: first at Trinity Episcopal in New Orleans, then at Trinity in Boston, and finally at the Washington National Cathedral where he served as Canon Missioner. TLB has been presented dozens of times in a variety of settings.  The TLB version we are updating now is dated 2008.

I had been looking for a shorter course to offer at Elmwood Jail where I have been leading seminars in Education for Ministry (EfM) since 2015. Unfortunately, EfM takes nine months per program year and many of the inmates are not at Elmwood that long. EfM continues to be the right program for some Elmwood dorms; however, I was glad to find TLB for faster-cycle dorms.  I think we can complete both Old and New Testament studies using TLB in about four months.

With Canon Barnwell’s enthusiastic support, I have edited the first six TLB sessions. I plan to edit the next 30 sessions starting next week. The first six sessions cover “The Hebrew Scriptures, Part One: The Great Stories of Genesis”. In addition to reading all of the Bible book of Genesis, students will also read:

I am grateful to have Diane Lovelace and my husband, John Plocher, as my Co-Mentors in this new venture.  I am giving the inmates Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, dictionaries, pencils and journals to support their studies.  Some books are in Spanish and some in English.  Ten inmates came last week to hear about the new program.  They are a varied group from many faith backgrounds: Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim. We are looking forward to developing the TLB pilot program together.

This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.


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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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