The campaign hat is a very distinct uniform accessory worn by law enforcement officers and members of the military. The cumbersome, wide-brim hat is typically associated with the steely-eyed, unyielding training instructor of the United States Armed Forces.
With the exception of special ceremony, my hat has had a place on the closet shelf for the majority of my twenty-three year career as a Correctional Peace Officer.
The men and women of the Department of Corrections walk the “toughest beat in the state.”
Over the years, I’ve run into danger and chaos more times than I can remember. I’m very fortunate, considering where I’ve worked, that I utilized my firearm only once in the line of duty to suppress a potentially deadly riot involving nearly two hundred men. This says much of the incredible people with whom I’ve had the honor to work.
I’ve cleaned up my share of disturbing crime scenes. I’ve cried. I’ve fought for my own safety and the safety of others. I sustained two non-life threatening injuries requiring corrective surgery. My family and I endured a long and painful seven-year depression undoubtedly due, in part, to emotional and psychological adversity, environmental hostility and the spiritually oppressive effects of a livelihood behind bars. I’ve also supervised and directly conversed with people of such historic criminal notoriety that they’ve been made the subject of books and full-length feature films.
Work and Faith
As a Catholic who has made a living working as a maximum-security prison guard, the integration of my faith and professional occupation has always been a challenge.
It wasn’t until recently, as I near the end of my career that I arrived at the Crossroads. I discovered a purposeful mission in prison. I discovered a reason to dust off my campaign hat and shine my badge. I discovered a means through which I exert some very tough love on some very impressionable young hearts in a place I’ve often referred to as the “belly of the beast.”
As one Crossroads advocate said “It’s one thing to act like a stone cold killer. It’s another thing to actually meet stone cold killers.”
The Project Crossroads Juvenile Diversionary Program brings at-risk females, between the ages of 10 and 18, in direct contact with volunteer inmates and staff for a very close look at the ice-cold reality of incarceration in a maximum-security prison.
Project Crossroads gained international recognition when it was filmed and broadcast by A & E Television as a record-breaking episode of Beyond Scared Straight.
As harsh and uncharitable as this program may appear to those who have never been responsible for a dangerously at-risk child, Project Crossroads can be appreciated from a Christian perspective.
Consider the most incorrigible and obstinate person who refuses to acknowledge the love of God, the error of his ways, and the pain and suffering his actions have inflicted on those around him. Consider the compassion of Christ, who for love of the hardened soul, mystically intervenes and momentarily takes this living being to the pit of hell.
Just as this person is deterred by the horror of hell from living a life that would inevitably end in eternal fire, the at-risk youth of Crossroads are deterred by the frightening reality of prison from making any more bad choices and living a life that would inevitably end in incarceration.
Prison can be hell on earth and nobody wants to see his or her child go there.
My charitable intervention really begins at the end of each program and continues every day afterward. Project Crossroads is not funded to conduct individual follow-up. I “follow-up” by prayerfully recalling the names, faces, tears and the brokenness of each young lady I’ve met at the Crossroads.
Some are motherless and some are fatherless. Some have both a mother and a father but would prefer to be elsewhere. Some live in fear. Some are neglected and abused. Gangs, alcohol, drugs and promiscuity seduce most of them. Some are hopeless and, at such a young age, believe they are a worthless failure. All of them succeed in making an indelible impression on my heart. I campaign for them on my knees. I pray for their well-being and their healing.
I pray that our paths never intersect again within these prison walls.
Valley State Prison for Women
Copyright 2012 Brian K. Kravec