North Zulch resident Joe Aranda received the Governor’s 2013 Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award for Most Innovative Program today in recognition of his dedication to helping offenders incarcerated within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).
The award was presented by Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Oliver Bell and TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston during a ceremony held in Austin. Aranda is one of 20 recipients from across Texas recognized for their efforts to help state offenders and those who are on parole or probation.
“Each of this year’s award recipients personify a selfless dedication to helping offenders succeed both while incarcerated, and once they’re released,” said Livingston.
In March of 2012, Aranda, a Certified Volunteer Chaplain’s Assistant at the Ferguson Unit, introduced an innovative program to serve a population of offenders who are not allowed to meet in a classroom setting due to security precautions. The Bible Basics Administrative Segregation Program uses the non-contact visitation area designated for offenders in administrative segregation custody as a classroom to facilitate a Bible class.
The maximum size of the class is limited to 10 participants due to a limited number of single-cell cubicles available. The program offers eight weekly classes lasting one hour each. Since the inception of this unique program there have been two graduating classes.
Aranda, who served 26 years with the Houston Fire Department, has also worked in the education system working with troubled youth who had been sent to alternative schools and with special needs children.
Aranda is one of thousands of concerned volunteers who donate many hours of their personal time every year with the goal of changing the lives of convicted offenders, and aiding and comforting their victims. Annually, approximately 18,000 volunteers make 163,000 visits to criminal justice facilities and work with offenders who are on supervision, donating over 526,000 hours of service.