Robin Rader ’84 Using Legal Background As Prison Chaplain
Some Ohio State University Moritz College of Law alumni are prosecutors, fighting to send guilty criminals behind bars. Others are defense attorneys, working to keep their clients from going to prison.
But there’s another role that at least one Moritz alumna plays in the process. Robin Rader ’84 is a chaplain at the Ohio State Penitentiary, where she consoles and tends to the spiritual needs of hundreds of the state’s prisoners.
“When I get to listen to someone talk about their spiritual needs or lament the passing of a loved one, I feel that I am where I was meant to be at that moment, doing what God has called me to do,” she said.
While attending Ohio State, Rader believed that she would practice consumer law, but after working less than a year in the field she knew that it wasn’t for her.
She began as an assistant prosecutor in Richland County, Ohio, and later became a police officer in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, then Upper Arlington, Ohio.
“While I was an assistant prosecutor in Richland County I headed the child support division,” she said. “A police officer was convicted of murdering a mother for whose children I was seeking child support. I was devastated and felt the ineffectiveness of being a prosecutor. ‘By the time a case reaches the prosecutor’s office’, I reasoned, ‘it is too late. A victim has already been created.’ I wanted to enforce the law when I might be able to prevent someone’s victimization.”
She later returned to prosecuting as an assistant prosecutor in Franklin County. However, Rader said that she continued to notice things that eventually led her down a spiritual route.
“Criminal defendants in my cases would want to come up and talk to me about faith and Jesus,” she said. “People kept telling me that I should go into ministry.”
She made the decision to enter the seminary at the The Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio. Rader said that she had expected, at the end of the three-year program, to create a Clinical Pastoral Education program at a major urban police department. In such a program, police chaplains are taught pastoral care skills, such as listening techniques.
But after working as a hospital and police chaplain, Rader became the pastor of the South Bloomfield, Ohio, United Methodist Church. She worked there for nearly two years, before accepting her greatest and most rewarding challenge.
The Rev. Gary Sims, Sr., the religious services administrator for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, thought Rader would be a great fit at the Ohio State Penitentiary, she said.
“This role challenges me to grow in areas that I would rather not,” she said. “You can’t be effective in ministry unless you love your parishioners, even ones that are very hard to love. When I started this job, I was twice the victim of a violent crime, a former prosecutor, police officer, and daughter of a judge. Before I started, I wasn’t particularly disposed toward liking or loving any of the folks here.”
But, Rader said, learning to love each inmate has allowed her to grow as a person.
Rader spends her days answering “kites,” which are letters written to her by some of the about 500 inmates who live in the Youngstown, Ohio, prison. The prison includes two buildings, which house a range of violators including those who were sentenced to minimal-security units to those on death row.
She is responsible for holding worship services and Bible studies within the prison. And she also notifies inmates of deaths in their families.
“Sometimes these people need help coping with death, and that is when I am able to help,” she said.