“More than Shawshank Redemption”: Why You Should Consider Prison Chaplaincy

Award-Winning Chaplain Leader Invites You To Consider Prison Chaplaincy

From a federal prison in Hawaii to an office in DC to a livestream panel tonight, Rev Heidi Schulz Kugler is committed to what she calls “transformational ministry.”

As Chief of Chaplaincy Services for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Rev Kugler is the executive leader for the spiritual care that happens at all 122 federal prisons throughout the country. She sets national policy, leads professional development and support, and provides the vision for this “gift of a ministry.”

BU Distinguished Alum

She is also one of 2021’s distinguished alumni of Boston University School of Theology (BUSTH). The Lab congratulates Rev. Kugler on this recognition, and agrees with BUSTH Dean G. Sujin Pak that she embodies “the visionary, transformative leadership needed in this world today.” We are honored to have Rev. Kugler’s voice and leadership on the Lab’s Advisory Board.

Many understand prison or correctional chaplaincy to be one of the oldest chaplaincies in the US — the American Correctional Chaplains Association dates back to 1885.

But many don’t understand that correctional chaplains are trained to — and thanks to Rev Kugler, provided ongoing professional development to — serve not just incarcerated persons, but facility staff and community members as well. She named that it’s “caring for the religious accommodation and pastoral needs of inmates first and foremost” but also crisis intervention with staff and community engagement and involvement as well.

Invitation to Service

In a video interview with the Lab (see right), Rev Kugler invites anyone 37 years old or younger (an age explained at minute 2:43) to consider a career in correctional chaplaincy — with anywhere from 30 to 60 positions open annually. “It’s more than Shawshank Redemption or Dead Man Walking,” Rev Kugler says. “The interfaith setting is a real gift.”


“By the time persons come into custody… in a lot of ways they’ve already hit rock bottom. So the spiritual receptivity is very high. And the opportunity to really enhance the spiritual awakening of people — staff and inmates and community members — is always present.”

You can also hear Rev. Kugler live on September 15 at 6:00 PM Eastern; RSVP required here.

Please join the Lab in congratulating Rev Kugler on this award. We can’t see what transformation she leads next.

Zac Willette, MDiv, BCC is the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab’s Innovator in Residence.