Otto Festge was the mayor of Madison and a founding member of what was then known as the Madison Area Lutheran Council (MALC). Through his position with the City of Madison, he recognized that the Dane County Sheriff’s Office had no systematic way of obtaining clergy services during emergencies. Responding to this need, the mayor helped establish the MALC Task Force, known today as the Madison Area Jail Ministry. In 1970 the Jail Ministry asked the pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church to provide voluntary chaplain services to the jail one day per week. Shortly after beginning as chaplain, both the pastor and the Board recognized that a full-time chaplain was needed. Within two years the Jail Ministry was providing the Dane County Jail with a full-time, paid chaplain serving the spiritual needs of incarcerated men as well as the jail staff. In 2002 the Jail Ministry added a second part-time chaplain.
THE NAME HAS CHANGED
IS THE SAME
After much discussion and deliberation, and after a unanimous vote of member congregations, the name of the organization was changed to the Madison Area Jail Ministry. We will always honor the Lutheran tradition and history from which the ministry was founded and continues to operate. Our mission is almost exclusively focused on providing spiritual care within the Dane County Jail. In addition to serving all those who live and work in the jail, we also support their families, and work to come along side those who have been incarcerated to help them in the journey back into the community.
THOSE WE SERVE
PEOPLE WHO ARE INCARCERATED
We serve men and women, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends. When the Jail Ministry began, approximately 100 people were housed in the jail. Today that number has increased to over 650 in two facilities.
In most cases, the family and friends of a person who is incarcerated is doing time in their own way. Chaplains offer support and encouragement during the incarceration of their loved one and continued support as they return to the community.
Correctional work is strained by staff shortages, poor working conditions, low prestige, high overtime, and high trauma exposure. MAJM is leveraging tools and resources designed to invest in the personhood of the staff. This aims to help them build resilience, find a sense of meaning in their work. In turn, this encourages a workplace culture that leads to better resident outcomes and improved staff wellbeing.
Chaplains work with community volunteers to run New Beginnings groups that support people in their reentry. They work with community chaplains to provide linkages to congregations and community programs. They speak and preach in Madison area congregations, civic groups, and community service agencies.