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Gail Hanson outside the Cameron County Jail, where she was barred from ministering to female inmates. photo by Daniel Lopez It’s rare for chaplains to be locked out of Texas or U.S. jails. The women Hanson worked with say it’s a serious loss. “Now that Mrs. Gail Hanson has been banned out from this jail,” wrote longtime inmate Carla Ramos in a letter sent to Hanson and signed by 21 other inmates, “it is like we don’t have nobody that, we can tell about what we are passing through.” Law-enforcement officials in Cameron County say there is no dearth of spiritual counselors to listen to the women inmates. Chief Deputy Gus Reyna Jr. says there is a long list of chaplains who visit Cameron’s four county lock-ups. When Hanson’s husband, Paul Hanson, asked about the prohibition on his wife, he says another officer mentioned “too many chaplains” as a reason. But shortly thereafter, Assistant Deputy Reyna gave the official reason in a Brownsville Herald story: that Hanson’s methods might stir unrest among inmates. “It may even rise to ROUGH & TUMBLE TEXAS POLITICAL COMBAT Not for the squeamish! By former State Rep. Lloyd Criss or 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 13, 2009 the level of threatened security breach,” Reyna wrote. “While spiritual guidance may be helpful, personal involvement and advocacy for inmates is not within the acceptable limits of spiritual guidance and counseling and may foment unnecessary and counter-productive unrest among the jail population.” Hanson, a 6i-year-old teacher in a private Christian high school she co-founded with her husband, denies any such situation ever existed. Though she had once been briefly banned for protesting conditions, when her pastor was informed in March 2008 that Hanson would be permanently barred from jail visits, it came as a jolt. To the charge of “personal involvement” with the inmates, Hanson pleads guiltyand unrepentant. She was well-known for backing up her prayers and praise songs with persistent advocacy. Some chaplains collect money for inmates’ commissary accounts and take them books in addition to teaching, counseling and doing cell-to-cell visitations. Hanson went further. She would ask the guards why the women didn’t have toilet paper or underwear; help the women communicate with children and family members; and write judges to protest the inordinate lengths of time indigent women had to wait for legal services. She took a 22-year-old woman into her home for several months at one point, when the woman’s release was dependent on having a place to live. “She was there to help me get back on my feet, and [the Hansons] helped me find a job,” says Latescha Mallette, now living in Washington state. Hanson, who continues to correspond with several of the