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Indiana Ombudsman Replies to Friends

Published: May 15, 2020


Friends:  In response to the complaint I send to the Indiana Ombudsman Bureau last week – about a denial of delivery of a book sent out by Western Friend by the Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill, IN – I got a call today from Charlene Burkette of that office. [See: She said that she had received similar complaints from five Friends and that she was calling to provide an update.  We had a friendly and encouraging call.  Turns out her home town was the site of an early Quaker meeting, the high school nickname was The Quakers and an annual field trip in elementary school was to visit the historic meeting house that is still located in the center of town.  Believe all that helped her feel connected to this concern on a personal as well as professional level.

She noticed the number of letters on the same topic and wanted to know if there was a "concerted effort".  I explained that a call to action is how we Quakers work and that was what she saw in action. Below is what she reported.

She noted that one person included the photo of the mailing label and said that was very helpful. She first contacted the Director of Religious Services for the Indiana Correctional Facilities, Dave Liebel.  She forwarded the picture and he checked with a Quaker chaplain/pastor who confirmed that it was a legitimate group.  She said they want to encourage offenders to have contact with faith organizations, such as Quakers, especially if they request materials.

She and Mr. Liebel came up with a two-pronged plan.  He is going to make an appeal to the Warden at Miami Correctional Facility to change that policy.  They also discussed whether there needs to be a policy statement that materials/organizations that are approved by the Direction of Religious Services should be delivered.  She said one way this might happen is that if a package arrives from a faith-based publisher, the chaplain of that individual facility could be charged with the care of discernment and/or it could be through the state director's office.  Obviously, any policy change will take longer but she sounded hopeful that the particular materials could be considered before that occurs.

Ms. Burkett said she would be back in touch with me to let me know how things proceed.  I will share what I learn as this moves along.

from Talley Kenyon, Palo Alto Friends Meeting (5/14/2020)