November 14, 2012

Former prison chaplain sees the hazards in jailhouse ministry

The Rev. Stan Moody, pastor of the Meeting House Church in Manchester, says the temptation to become an advocate should not overtake the need to provide care

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Poor training, hidden agendas and inexperience are a dangerous combination when it comes to granting volunteers access to prison and jail populations, according to a former Maine State Prison chaplain.

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The Rev. Stan Moody

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

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The Rev. Stan Moody, pastor of the Meeting House Church in Manchester, said Wednesday he knows Rev. Stephen Foote only by reputation.

However, Moody said the circumstances that apparently led to Foote's arrest Nov. 1 for trafficking drugs followed an almost predictable pattern.

"Pastors, because they are caregivers, they tend to feel they have to carry the same ethic into the jails and prisons," Moody said. "The fact is, it's a whole different kind of world in there. This is not a parish. You don't make decisions to help people based on the input you get."

Foote, serving as a transition priest-in-charge at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Augusta, was charged with supplying the drug suboxone to two inmates at the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. Those inmates, Joshua Theriault-Patten, 25, of Bremen, and Adam Shawley, 27, of Newport, have each been charged with attempted trafficking in prison contraband.

Lt. Michael Murphy, of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, said Foote acknowledged his role in the trafficking scheme, though Foote and his lawyer have declined to comment. Foote, whom police said made no money from the effort, told authorities he was trying to help Theriault-Patten, a former parishioner of his.

Moody has continued to develop training programs for corrections volunteers and worked for prison reforms since leaving the Maine State Prison. He said suboxone, like methadone for heroin, is sometimes used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms associated with addictions to other medications, such as oxycodone.

"Who knows what the story was? Who knows what kind of relationship they had?" Moody said. "In order to really understand the dynamics, you have to go back and see what the relationship was all about. It's very easy for these volunteers to pick up on the stories these guys tell them. He probably felt he was helping him with his drug problem by bringing in the suboxone. The problem is, it's bringing contraband into a jail, and it's a criminal offense."

Moody said volunteers at the Maine State Prison undergo fairly extensive training, but instruction at the jails varies from county to county. Moody is working with Kennebec County corrections officials to develop standardized instruction so volunteers are given the tools and wisdom they need to work with inmates properly and safely.

"We need to make sure they don't go in there with agendas," Moody said. "It's an extremely difficult thing. As a pastor, I know how easy it is to become an advocate. One of the things you have to teach volunteers is they are not advocates. They are there to minister to people's needs."

Moody said most jails and prisons have an active drug trade that is fed by outsiders, many of whom feel obligated to link dealers on the outside with traffickers on the inside. "It's the leverage these prisoners have, not only over volunteers but staff members, that create these types of problems," he said.

In his apparent effort to help Theriault-Patten, Foote not only has jeopardized what was a long-standing and sterling career in religious ministry, but also has placed Theriault-Patten and Shawley in line for a significant prison terms, Moody said.

"My guess is they'll go light on him, but they won't go light on the guys inside," Moody said. "These guys didn't traffic; they were using it themselves. That lessens the gravity of the offense, but the bottom line is you're bringing contraband into the prison. That's about the worst thing you can do."

Craig Crosby -- 621-5642
ccrosby@centralmaine.com

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