History of Religious Services

The history of Religious Services

California prison chaplains have long served the state to provide spiritual and moral guidance to those behind bars. They’ve officiated at funerals, helped plan education and baptized incarcerated congregants. Participation in religious observances is voluntary, but through the years chaplains have found themselves acting as librarian, counselor and therapist.

William Hill was the first chaplain.   He was appointed Moral Instructor at San Quetin in 1881. After two years on the job, Hill was the first to be named Chaplain. He retired in 1889.   A full history of state prison chaplaincy can be found at https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/insidecdcr/2020/01/09/having-faith-a-look-back-at-california-prison-chaplains/

Over the years, California has hired Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Native Americans to the role as chaplain.  Currently, approximately 125 chaplains are hired and working in state service.  Each prison hires from 3 to 5 chaplains. Religious services take place in facility chapels, Native American Sweat Lodge grounds, and on the Outside Religious Grounds (ORG).