Chaplain Credits Faith-Based Programs For Successful Rehabilitation, Re-Entry

By Lynda Jones

After 20 years of utilizing faith-based programs in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system, the recidivism rate has dropped dramatically, according to Dr. Vance Drum, TDCJ's new Director of Chaplaincy Programs.

Vance DrumVance DrumDrum, a resident of Houston County since 1985, has more than 30 years experience as a correctional chaplain within the TDCJ.

He was chaplain at the Eastham Unit for nearly 28 years, which he described as a wonderful ministry. In 2012 he became the regional chaplain for Region 1, which encompasses East Texas, including 14 prisons and 17 chaplains.

He just recently was chosen to be director of the TDCJ Chaplaincy Programs. He now is over 126 chaplains in Texas, including five parole chaplains and six regional chaplains on 109 prison units.

"I believe that good programming, faith-based, rehabilitative re-entry programming has a significant effect on offenders' lives," Drum said. "It makes it better for the wardens because if anybody turns to the Lord in prison, and starts really believing that God's up there and God has expectations for us and the 10 Commandments really mean something, that you really shouldn't kill and steal and all that, it will affect their behavior in a positive way.

"Our aim is to promote positive change in offender behavior; that's our TDCJ mission and also part of our chaplaincy mission."

"Chaplaincy programming is a big part of that in the Texas prison system," Drum explained. "I experienced that at Eastham. Eastham, when I went there, was not a good place at all. It was one of the worst prisons. In fact, the year after I went there, in 1986 Newsweek Magazine came out with a cover story called 'Inside America's Toughest Prison', which was all about the Eastham prison, which was right here in Houston County."

However, Eastham changed over the years, Drum said, and he feels blessed to have been involved in the transformation.

"We got new wardens in, forward-looking wardens who believed in programs, so programs came into that unit and that unit dramatically changed for the better. It was a big prison culture transformation at Eastham," he said.

As Drum discussed the TDCJ chaplaincy programs, he explained that normally there is not much turnover of correctional chaplains, but due to retirements, there currently is a large turnover.

"As of January, five of the six regional chaplains will be new on their job in the last 10 months," he said. "A lot of prisons opened in the early 1990s . . . and a lot of chaplains did 20 years . . . there's not much turnover in chaplains at all. They like their job; they're helping people and that's what chaplains do, but after spending 20 years in prison they can retire, so a lot of them are retiring these days."

Just because of retirements, he said, 10 of the 17 chaplains in Region 1 are new.

The same is true of the regional chaplains, Drum said.

" There are six regions in the whole state so I work especially with them, and with the individual chaplains periodically also," Drum explained.

"What I'm trying to do as director is through the regional chaplains and through them the unit chaplains, is to guide them into providing really helpful rehabilitative re-entry programming for all the 155,000 offenders in the TDCJ, in prison," he said.

Drum stressed that rehabilitative re-entry programming is working.

"It's been working for about 20 years, especially emphasizing it. As a result, the recidivism rate, that is the return to prison after three years out, over the last 20 years has dropped dramatically in Texas from about 75% 20 years ago to the current recidivism rate, which is about 22%," he said.

"I've seen that happen first hand over the years, and I believe in long tenure. If you're doing a good job, long tenure really helps because you sort of become a part of the culture at the prisons, chaplains do. They really can do a lot of good if they stay and work at it in a good way," he continued.

Drum is proud of the success rate of faith-based, rehabilitative re-entry programming within the TDCJ.

"Texas is on a good track with the TDCJ promoting these good programs, and my goal now is to continue that and enhance it by what I've seen and what I know works. I'm really thankful that I was selected to be in this job and we'll just give it the best we have. I believe God helps us in all these things to do a good job and to help many people," said. "Many, many people are in prison because they did not have early guidance or help. A lot of prisoners had good parents, but many prisoners did not have good parents who gave them guidance and direction in their lives. They got with the wrong crowd and they went to prison, sometimes for a very long time . . . For many of these prisoners, we're serving as surrogate dads and moms for them and we're giving them what they may not have gotten early in their lives, so I'm glad we're doing what we're doing."

Drum also credits three major entities for the success of the chaplaincy programs in Texas.

"Right now, in the past three or four years, the three big entities in Texas that govern what we do have all come together on the same page . . . The Legislature, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice and our executive leadership in TDCJ, have all come together promoting good programs to help offenders in a new way, a renewed emphasis on faith-based, rehabilitative and re-entry programming. They all are supportive of the chaplaincy. I'm thankful for it because it means that we're able to do what we want to do which we know works; it's a blessing."

Drum also is excited about the opportunity to lead correctional chaplains across the nation to do what the TDCJ chaplains are doing. Last month he was elected to his second term as president of the American Correctional Chaplains Association, historically the first affiliate of the American Correctional Association which began in 1870.

Unit chaplains can feel isolated from their peers, so it's good to meet other people with the same goals, Drum explained.

Drum concluded, "The good news is a significant number of inmates in prison do have a life direction change. Not all of them do, they have to want it, but a significant number do and that's all the result of good chaplaincy programming. That's what I'm excited about."

Happy 177th Birthday To City Of Crockett

The City of Crockett, county seat of Houston County, was incorporated on Dec. 29, 1837.
On Monday, Dec. 29, 2014, about 35 persons gathered at City Hall to celebrate the City of Crockett's 177th birthday.

The event was planned and hosted by the Houston County Historical Commission (HCHC) and the City of Crockett.

Those attending the city's "birthday party" included representatives from the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce, the Crockett Police Department, the Crockett Public Library, the Crockett ISD Board of Trustees, several members of the HCHC and numerous business people. Crockett's new city administrator, Sean Hutchison, also was present to meet those in attendance.

The following is from a history of Crockett, TX written by Eliza H. Bishop and Christopher Long, published by the Texas State Historical Association in the Handbook of Texas Online:

"When Houston County was established in 1837, Andrew Edwards Gossett, an early settler from Tennessee, donated land for the county seat. Gossett and his father, Elijah Gossett, named the settlement for David Crockett, a former neighbor in Tennessee.

"Crockett is said to have camped near the townsite in January 1836 on his way to San Antonio. County officials chose the site because of its proximity to the Old San Antonio Road.

"The town was incorporated on December 29, 1837, and a post office opened there on March 31, 1838. During the early years mail was delivered twice a month, and a stagecoach ran at intervals from Nacogdoches.

"In 1839 raids by the Alabama-Coushatta and Cherokee Indians forced the town's residents to take shelter in the fortified log courthouse."

Several early schools operated in the vicinity of Crockett, among them Crockett Academy, built a half mile east of the courthouse about 1855.

"During the Civil War Crockett served as a mustering point and training center for Confederate forces. In 1865 the courthouse and most of the town burned, so that most of the county's early records were lost.

"In 1872 the Houston and Great Northern Railroad was built through Crockett, thus assuring its place as a regional trading center and spurring the growth of the lumber industry in the region.

"By 1885 the town had a bank, a hotel, an opera house, and several schools; Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches; a weekly newspaper, the Texas Patron; and an estimated population of 1,200. A school for black girls, later known as Mary Allen Junior College, opened in Crockett in 1886. In 1904 a lignite mine was opened just south of the town and at its height around 1910 produced twenty-five carloads a day. Wildcatting for oil began around the same time, but local oil was not produced commercially until 1934.
"Although the decline of the timber industry after World War I affected the economy of county, Crockett continued to prosper during the 1920s and 1930s, reaching a population of 3,063 in 1925 and 4,441 in 1936, when it had 21 businesses.

"After World War II Crockett grew steadily; it topped the 5,000 mark in the early 1960s and reached 7,000 during the 1980s. In 1990 the town had a population of 7,024 and 180 rated businesses. In 2000 the population was 7,141 with 479 businesses. The local economy was based on agriculture and the production of furniture, plastics, chemicals, and clothing. Attractions in Crockett include its many old homes, a Fiddlers Festival in June, and a rodeo in July.

SOURCE: Eliza H. Bishop and Christopher Long, "CROCKETT, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed December 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Quick Lesson In Robotics

Latexo High School seniors Jace Skalicky and Ashley Rothrock, both members of the LHS State UIL Championship Math Team and the LISD Robotics Class, had some fun with the LISD Board of Trustees Monday, Nov. 17, as they gave a demonstration of the robots pictured on the table in front of them. Rothrock demonstrated how one can sort five colors (second from right) and Skalicky demonstrated some of Gyro Boy's (far right) movements. Students in the growing robotics program start with a box of Legos® and finish with projects like these, programmed and ready for competition. There are 40 students enrolled in the robotics program this year. (Photo by Lynda Jones)

It’s A Two-Fer For Grapeland FFA Senior Quiz Team At Nationals

A very proud Gary Graham, Ag-Science teacher at Grapeland High School, stood behind his students as they won first place in the National FFA Senior Team Quiz Competition last week in Louisville, KY, and third place in the Junior Quiz Team Competition.  Pictured at the far right is Dr. David Frazier from Tarleton University, who served as the contest superintendent. (Courtesy Photo)A very proud Gary Graham, Ag-Science teacher at Grapeland High School, stood behind his students as they won first place in the National FFA Senior Team Quiz Competition last week in Louisville, KY, and third place in the Junior Quiz Team Competition. Pictured at the far right is Dr. David Frazier from Tarleton University, who served as the contest superintendent. (Courtesy Photo)

By Lynda Jones, Editor-in-Chief

A very proud Gary Grapham, Ag-Science teacher at Grapeland High School was bursting at the seams with joy when he returned from Louisville, KY to Houston County last weekend.

For the second consecutive year, the Grapeland FFA Senior and Junior Quiz teams competed in the National Quiz Team events in Louisville, and for the second consecutive year, the Senior Quiz Team won first place.

Additionally, Grapeland FFA's Junior Quiz Team placed third in its contest.

The events took place during the National FFA Convention Oct. 27 - Oct. 31.
Members of the Senior Quiz Team are Victoria Martin, 3rd high individual; Monic Davila, 4th high individual; J..D. Martin, 7th high individual; and Rebekah Turner, 11th high individual.
The Junior Quiz Team. Team members include Sydney Watson, 5th high individual; Amy Crook, 10th high individual; Taylor Pennington, 15th high individual; and Rick Frauenberger, 31st high individual.

Graham said of his students, "I'm just so proud of them."

‘New Man In Town’ Seeks To Make A Difference

By Lynda Jones, Editor-in-Chief

Five specialists in Las Vegas had diagnosed Skip Seguro with Stage 3 kidney cancer and given less than a year to live when he moved to the Houston area.

"I gave away furniture and actually came here to die, and my sister was going to take care of my three dogs and cat," Seguro said. "When I got down here my sister started hounding me to go to some place named M. D. Anderson."

His sister won the argument and Seguro went to M. D. Anderson. Doctors there took out his affected kidney and now, six months later, he is cancer-free . . . with no chemo or radiation therapy.
Seguro tells this story to explain how the world reknown entertainer came to be a new restaurant owner in Crockett.

After his surgery, he said, "I was going back to Vegas, but I was going to stay in Crockett for a week, just to come through, but I just became enchanted with it . . . it kind of had a Mayberry feel . . . and I fell in love with it."

"I went to several restaurants and I said, 'Everybody's eating fried foods'.

"With diabetes and cancer, with issues like that, I can't do that . . .I thought, opening a place here with something that's not fried would be really healthy, and I'm sure I'm not the only person that thinks that way, let's try some good healthy foods."

Seguro continued, "I thought also in a town this size, I can make a difference. After being diagnosed with a terminal illness, something happens to your personality -- if you survive . . . through God's blessing and with His Grace you survive, you realize in whatever time you have left you have to make a difference."

Seguro said he feels that in Crockett, he can make that difference he longs to achieve. With extensive experience as a professional actor, television host and a jazz/Blues vocalist, Seguro plans to reach out to young people interested in performance art.

He began his own career when he was in high school. His first two movies were "The Story of Esther" and "The Crucible".

By the first of the year, he plans to construct a stage at his restaurant. He would like to do supper theater for the kids in school, help them perform on stage and maybe direct.

When he adds musical entertainment to his restaurant, he will add jazz and blues and some country.
"I went to Camp Street and I saw the family band perform. There were about 30 people in the audience with instruments who played along and I felt the spirit of God in that place.

"I felt the communal of the audience with the band. It was like being in church. It was a blessing . . . I'm trying get a place where musicians can come in and jam once a week."

Seguro expresses amazement that many people, individuals and business owners, are supportive in helping with his start in Crockett.

"It's better than Mayberry," he said.
• • •
To see Seguro's credits or to sample his music, visit

U.S. Army’s Jazz Ambassadors To Perform At Crockett Civic Center

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army  The Jazz Ambassadors of the United States Army will perform at the Crockett Civic Center on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m.  Admission is free, but tickets are required.Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army The Jazz Ambassadors of the United States Army will perform at the Crockett Civic Center on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets are required.

Compiled From U.S. Army and Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce Press Materials—

The internationally acclaimed Jazz Ambassadors of Washington, DC will continue its long tradition of presenting free public performances when it appears at the Crockett Civic Center on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 pm.

The Jazz Ambassadors' concert in Crockett is sponsored by the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce in association with the Piney Woods Fine Arts Association (PWFAA).

The Jazz Ambassadors is the official touring big band of the United States Army.
Formed in 1969, this 19-member ensemble has received great acclaim at home and abroad performing America's greatest original art form, jazz.

Concerts by the Jazz Ambassadors are programmed to entertain all types of audiences. The band's diverse repertoire includes big band swing, bebop, Latin, contemporary jazz, standards, popular tunes, Dixieland, vocals and patriotic selections, many of which are written or arranged by members of the Jazz Ambassadors.

Recent notable performances include concerts at the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Richmond Jazz Festival at Maymont, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Jazz Education Network Conference and an appearance on the Colbert Report.

Gordon Goodwin, Bobby Shew, Ernie Watts and the Dave Brubeck All-Star Quintet are just a few of the outstanding jazz artists who have shared the stage with the Jazz Ambassadors.

The band has been featured in joint concerts with Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony Pops, the Colorado Pops Orchestra and the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. The band's rigorous touring schedule and reputation for excellence has earned it the title "America's Big Band."

Three members of the Jazz Ambassadors are from Texas: Sergeant First Class Todd Harrison, drums; Staff Sergeant Thomas Davis, trumpet; and Master Sergeant Marva Lewis, vocalist.

Sergeant First Class Todd Harrison started his professional music career at the age of 14 in Houston. He quickly became known for his ability to excel at any style of drumming, including Middle Eastern and Latin styles, rock, R&B, Broadway, country & western and funk.

After high school, SFC Harrison studied jazz under Shelly Berg at San Jacinto Junior College and classical percussion at Houston Baptist University.

He has performed with Paul Gilbert, Clark Terry, Russell Malone, Kirk Whalum, Grupo Mazz, Joel Frahm, Rob Levit, the Unified Jazz Ensemble and many others.

SFC Harrison is also an accomplished illustrator and cartoonist, and enjoys participation in local triathlons, cycling, scuba diving and fishing.

Born in Arkansas and raised in Arlington, Staff Sergeant Thomas Davis began playing trumpet at the age of 11 and later attended James Martin High School.

He received his undergraduate education from the University of North Texas, where he performed with the prestigious One and Two o'clock Lab Bands.

Before joining the Jazz Ambassadors in 2013, SSG Davis was an active freelance musician and horn arranger in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

He has performed with Gladys Knight, The Temptations, and Dave Brubeck, and has recorded with various gospel acts in the DFW area. SSG Davis also enjoys composing music, playing electric bass, and working out with kettlebells.

Born in Denison, Master Sergeant Marva Lewis earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a minor in Hotel and Restaurant Management at Wiley College, where she was a member of the Wiley A Cappella Choir.

A Gulf War veteran, MSG Lewis was a fuel handler in Desert Storm and Desert Shield with the First Cavalry Division. She is an alumni of the US Army Soldiers Show, and has served as principal vocalist for the Jazz Knights at the United States Military Academy.

MSG Lewis attributes her eclectic taste for music to her father, who always surrounded her with music, and her grandmother, who made her go to church choir rehearsal.

For additional information about the Jazz Ambassadors' performance in Crockett, contact the Crocket Area Chamber of Commerce at 936-544-2359.

Free tickets will be available at the chamber office (Crockett Civic Center), First Community Bank, Lovelady State Bank, Grapeland State Bank, Citizens Bank, Prosperity Bank, Crockett Bank and Curry's Grocery.

H.E.B. will offer all veterans a free meal at the Crockett Civic Center beginning at 6 p.m. Veterans do not need a ticket for the meal, but they will need a ticket for the concert.