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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chaplain a 'beacon' in prison

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Bonnie Holcombe

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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When Bonnie Holcombe started ministering to imprisoned women, she didn't dream that her program would turn into a model for other prisons.

Nor did the chaplain imagine that she'd be considered a "beacon of hope" by women incarcerated in the Women's Community Correctional Center in Kailua.

The Total Life Recovery Program is a multi-faith-based treatment program that focuses on the whole person.

"It's an intensive therapeutic treatment program that deals with the causes of imprisonment : addiction, abuse and domestic violence," Holcombe said. "We address every area of a woman's life."

For her work in this area, Holcombe was selected as one of the five Hawai'i recipients this year of the Jefferson Award For Public Service. One of the recipients will be chosen at a luncheon tomorrow in Honolulu to represent the state at a national ceremony in June in Washington, D.C.

Holcombe's prison ministry has evolved into something that other correctional centers want to implement, she said. She has made presentations to correctional centers in Washington and Mississippi.

The program takes a systematic approach over a 12- to 24-month period to address addiction and compulsive behavior, to help inmates overcome the issues that may have contributed to their incarceration.

Holcombe becomes a voice for the needs of the women and their families.

Her program looks at the whole person, not just the addiction-compulsive issues. The treatment is one-on-one, not in group sessions. The program treats the person first, then the addiction.

"She provides hope for women who society consider unworthy," said Jessica Colon, a peer leader in the Total Life Recovery Program. "She possesses a deep guiding purpose with a vision and a sense of destiny for her existence, helping women in this facility by rebuilding their broken spirits."

In addition to the program, Holcombe maintains a full schedule as a chaplain who counsels people in hospitals, presides over funerals and weddings, and serves as a marriage counselor.

"I've never thought about the recognition," Holcombe said. "I don't care about it. I can't wait to get up in the morning and do what I do.

"I am the women's voices. If it's not me, then they don't have a voice as far as meeting their needs."


The Jefferson Awards For Public Service are given each year to ordinary people who do extraordinary things for the community. The awards are sponsored by The Honolulu Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.


This is the last of five profiles. See an interview with award winner Bonnie Holcombe on today's 5:30 and 10 p.m. Hawaii News Now broadcasts on KGMB and KHNL.