Mardi Ralph Jackson has been appointed San Quentin’s Protestant chaplain, the first African-American female Protestant chaplain at the prison’s Garden Chapel. She takes over a position that has been vacant since Morris Curry resigned 20 months ago.
My vision is to see souls come to Christ
Pastor Jackson was the chaplain for a juvenile facility in Norwalk for 9 ½ years. That facility was closed.
Prior to becoming a chaplain, Ms. Jackson volunteered for five years in prison ministry working with rehabilitation for at-risk youth.
She is a member of the Hillside Tabernacle Church (Church of God in Christ) in Altadena, Calif. where she was part of the ministerial staff. She attended Sonoma State University and California State Los Angeles, where she studied political science.
“My vision is to see souls come to Christ,” she said. “Incarcerated men are God’s creation, created in his image, and in spite of our circumstances, can change.”
She said her hope is to see men in blue become more committed and God conscious.
Her father, Bishop Leon Ralph, led her to Christianity. She reported he was a guest minister at San Quentin in the 1980s and was a former member of the state Legislature.
She will oversee a unique Protestant Chapel program, the Garden Chapel Christian Fellowship, the formal name of the San Quentin church. It is chartered under the American Evangelical Christian Churches denomination.
It has a missions department (Reaching Beyond The Walls) that sponsors children from other countries. It also has an educational ministry with 27 classes; nine licensed and ordained inmate ministers, and a Christian leadership program sponsored by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Pastor Jackson said she looks forward to facing challenges as she adapts from the juvenile system to the adult prison system, and addressing the needs of the congregation composed of a variety of denominations.