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Dianne G. Warley to receive first Clinton R. Jones award

[Episcopal News Service] 

In recognition of her commitment to prison ministry, the Rev. Dianne G. Warley, deacon at St. John's Episcopal Church in Niantic, Connecticut, will be honored on November 11 with the first Rev. Canon Clinton R. Jones Award.

The Rev. Canon Clinton R. Jones Award was established in 2005 by the Friends of Christ Church Cathedral, in Hartford, Connecticut, to honor an individual whose life and work exemplify values, accomplishments and passions similar to those of Jones, whose 40 years of outreach to people on the margins of society made him a national legend.

"When I heard about the Canon Jones Award and its criteria, I immediately though of Dianne Warley," said the Rev. Page Rogers, rector of St. John's Church. "I felt called to nominate her since the dimensions of the award really meshed with what she has been doing. She has been ahead of her time in working with people on the edges of society and especially in helping women in need."

Warley became interested in prison ministry after a fellow parishioner was convicted of mail fraud. She counseled him and his family, and upon his release, joined him in forming a Bible study team at the men's correctional facility.

She felt compelled to work with female inmates and began what has become a 20-year relationship with York Correctional Institution, where she has been involved in various projects, ranging from Bible study to the Storybook Project, a ministry that collects children's books from churches. Inmates are invited to read the stories on tapes to be given to their children. The project helps mothers stay connected to their children while in prison and also improves literacy among the inmate population. Warley's most recent project at York involved restoring an overgrown section of Union Cemetery in Niantic, where unnamed babies, who had died at birth to incarcerated mothers, have been buried.
She is a founding member and part of the design team working toward the creation of Epiphany: Mentoring for Ex-Offenders, a pilot program is being run in Bridgeport. The goal is to recruit and train mentors from churches, synagogues and mosques to help ex-offenders find their way back into society in a positive way. The program is based on the work of New Life Ministry at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Old Lyme.