The late Rev. Charles Joseph Otto of Pittston was one of two recipients of the 2017 Pennsylvania Prison Chaplains Association (PPCA) Correctional Chaplain of the Year Award presented last month.
Founded in 1976, the PPCA is an association of state and county correctional chaplains that seeks to elevate the standards of religious programs in correctional facilities while improving the effectiveness of correctional chaplains.
Rev. Otto passed away March 10, 2017 and his service to those incarcerated and working in county and state correctional facilities is remembered fondly by the PPCA community, the association stated. He is survived by his wife of 19 years, Peg Gorman, who attended the annual PPCA banquet in Carlisle on Sept. 13. She received the award in Rev. Otto’s name in the presence of more than 100 PPCA peers.
Rev. Otto and his wife became involved in prison ministry after he sold his drilling equipment business and together they co-founded the non-profit Exodus Prison & Aftercare Ministry. In 1999, Charles and Peg became involved in the prison ministry of Tunkhannock United Methodist Church. For the rest of his life, Charles remained invested in caring for the prison community, including inmates, their families and the prison officers.
When he was around 60 and looking to retire, Peg told him to not take God for granted.“If you need to do something, do it now,” she urged her husband. He decided to attend Moravian Seminary for a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. This degree augmented his capacity to serve the incarcerated, their families and officers at each prison. He served as an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and a volunteer chaplain in numerous local correctional facilities.
With Charles’ leadership and Peg’s background in non-profit organization, the Exodus Ministry was formally founded in 2003. Exodus Ministry offers counseling services to inmates, along with numerous other services, including court accompaniment and classes focused on 12 spiritual disciplines. Charles saw the most need in county prisons, as they had the fewest formal programs and the smallest budgets. Exodus continues its work in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wyoming, and Susquehanna counties.