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EX-ADDICT HEADS MINISTRY SERVING THOUSANDS OF INMATES

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Being a drug addict for 15 years gave Harley Brueck something. He calls it "a high level of compassion for broken people."

He used to be a broken person. Today, the high school teacher-turned-minister is a shepherd with a flock. But not just any flock."My flock is in 10 jails and 12 prisons."

Fourteen years after the unresponsive doper was booted out of what he says was California's best mental hospital, Brueck, is area director for Prison Fellowship Ministries in Idaho, Montana and Utah.

Charles Colson, former aide to President Richard Nixon, founded the organization 13 years ago. Colson served time in prison for his role in Watergate, the scandal that led to Nixon's resignation. He said he found God in prison.

Brueck, who says he first accepted Jesus into his life at age 12, has been with Prison Fellowship for six years. But his personal prison ministry began three years earlier, when he volunteered at the Idaho State Penitentiary.

He came to Idaho Falls recently for an all-day workshop to introduce prospective volunteers to the concept of non-denominational, multi-church jailhouse ministry. The workshop was held at Church of the Nazarene.

Many inmates, and even corrections staff, are desperate for the spiritual guidance that the right sort of ministry can provide, Brueck says. Inmates are often seeking something better in life.

Correctional facilities are frantic places of high tension, he says. Inmates often are highly agitated. The proper ministry can bring a degree of calm and make inmates easier to manage.

The program coordinates a cooperative effort among local churches. Brueck is hoping five to seven churches contribute volunteers to serve Bonneville County inmates.

Volunteers are taught the proj-ect's cardinal rule: Denominational doctrines must be left behind when entering a jail or prison.

The project tries to simplify the Christian message, boiling it down to fundamentals accepted by all Christian faiths - "Jesus' death, burial and resurrection."

Expressing denominational doctrines, Brueck says, can stir hostility and division among volunteers, inmates and corrections personnel.

Each volunteer must respect the facility's staff and rules. If he or she doesn't, Brueck says, there will be constant friction between the staff and volunteer.

Volunteers must also respect the inmates. "The inmate is an equally worthy individual," Brueck says. "You can't treat him as garbage or as a fourth-class citizen."

Inmate participation is voluntary. And for the volunteer minister, there is no danger, says Brueck.

"Inmates love their volunteer chaplain. We're not staff. We care about them. We offer them hope, and quite often a friend."

Inmate participation averages about 20 percent in his region, Brueck says. Nationally, participation runs about 10 percent. "That's enough to justify what we do."