CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The blessings and challenges of prison ministry

Most of us know that scripture calls us to visit those who are in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). Some of us think we may be suited to criminal justice ministry, while others are cynical or hostile to the thought of sharing mercy with the incarcerated. But there are a number of social and spiritual benefits to this ministry.
A few of these are:
• To help an inmate function more positively within the prison environment.
• To offer a connection between the community and inmates.
• To aid and support families of inmates.
• To prepare inmates for re-entry into society (physically, mentally, morally and spiritually).
• To offer practical re-entry assistance to (Read the full article at:

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Criminal Justice: Ministry efforts not limited to people behind bars

       For more than 30 years I have observed the trends and public response to ministry in the criminal justice system. When this area of ministry became more personal and I became directly involved, I began to look more clearly at the impact that Christian faith can have in the lives of people within the system.
       What I found was that in order to respond and share our faith in Christ we must first more clearly identify who is a part of that system.
     Most people hear “criminal justice” and think “prison” but the definition is more far-reaching than the offender. Oftentimes programs are developed by the faith community that direct our energies to the conversion of the incarcerated while other members of society who have been impacted by the stress of the criminal act are left wounded along the road.
       A comprehensive ministry of criminal justice, from a faith-based perspective, requires us to include ministry and outreach to the victims of the offenders where there are victims, the families of those incarcerated, all levels of law enforcement that work within the criminal justice system, the confined prisoner, and the ex-offender as they are reintroduced to the community.
      According to a recent report released by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, at the start of 2008 there were 2,319,258 adults being held in American prisons or jails. The latest published reports show that in the state of Georgia, the average daily population being held under supervision of the Department Of Corrections was 57,026 in state prisons, 106 percent of capacity.
       These numbers currently put Georgia in the upper fifth of increase in prison population; and among the eight largest correctional programs in the United States. These figures reveal that for the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison — a fact that significantly impacts our state budget without providing a clear benefit on public safety.

Other facts:

  • One in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, that figure is 233% higher for men of color.
  • The female prison population is increasing at a much faster pace than it is for males.
  • One in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars (1.89%). InGeorgiathis number is 16,152 or 29. 53% of the total prison population.
  • The majority of all prisoners are held at the state and local level (not federal)
  • World Prison Brief lists prison population rates per 100,000 residents of each country ~ U.S.tops the list with 743 prisoners per 100,000 residents, followed byRwandawith 595, theRussian Federationwith 559.
  • Reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes, 15.6 million property crimes, and 133,000 personal thefts were committed againstU.S.residents age 12 or older in 2009. This equates to more than 20,033,000 victims. **
       Although we can look at statistics and get a glimpse of the tragedy and heartbreak that surrounds our justice system, we are a people called to respond to the hurt and brokenness in the world and in our community. It is important that we note that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a matching increase in crime, nor is there a corresponding swelling in the nation’s population at large.
       Instead, what we see is that more people are behind bars largely because of a wave of public policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison. In addition, because of popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing laws, longer prison stays are being imposed on inmates.
       In some areas lawmakers are experimenting with a range of community punishments that are as effective as incarceration in protecting public safety. These include a mix of community-based programs such as day reporting centers, treatment facilities, electronic monitoring systems and community service. In addition, recidivism rates have proven to be positively impacted through faith-based programs.
       During the next few editions of the North Georgia Advocate we will have the opportunity to highlight the various facets of criminal justice ministry and how each of us can make an impact for Christ in these areas.
         In scripture we read, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord  require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ (Micah 6:8)
     In this journey we will look at the many ways people in our churches and in our conference have extended the grace of God by doing justice, loving mercy and walking with God.
By: Rev.Pat

They Went Before Us to Show Us the Way ~ John Wesley’s Bust

John Wesley’s Bust

Croly, the famous artist, was showing Lord Shelburne his collection of busts, and said to him: “My lord, perhaps you have heard of John Wesley?” “Oh, yes,” Lord Shelburne replied, “he – that race of fanatics!” Then Croly related how he had entreated Wesley in vain to permit a bust to be made of him, until one day he offered Wesley ten guineas for a ten-minute sitting. Wesley accepted, and taking off his coat, he lay on the sofa. In eight minutes Croly had “the most perfect bust I had ever taken,” and immediately paid Wesley the ten guineas. Wesley exclaimed: “I never till now earned money so speedily; but what shall I do with it?”

At once Wesley crossed over Westminster Bridge, where a woman and her three children were crying bitterly, because her husband was being dragged off to prison for a debt of eighteen shillings. Wesley’s gift of a guinea solved her problem and saved the family from misery. He then went to Giltspur Street Compter prison and asked the jailer to show him the most miserable person in his charge, who proved to Continue reading

They Went Before Us to Show Us the Way ~ Lydia Sexton

I am so grateful for my sisters who went into pastoral ministry and broke down so many of the barriers. Though there are still many barriers, attitudes and prejudices to overcome, I pray that for THIS day we are able to push all those conflicts aside and dialog for the hungry, the disenfranchised, the immigrants, the lonely and the many children of God who live without hope. God calls each of us to be a light in the world. For THIS day, be the light.

Lydia Sexton (1799-1872)

Lydia Sexton joined the United Brethren Church after her conversion in her early thirties. She struggled with a call to preach for several years. She twice refused a license to preach, but in 1851 received a license from the Illinois Annual Conference, making her the first woman so recognized in the United Brethren tradition. She served her church as a traveling preacher until the age of 70, when she became the first woman prison chaplain at the Kansas State Prison in Spring Hill, a position she held for one year. The quotations are taken from the Autobiography of Lydia Sexton (Dayton, Ohio: United Brethren Publishing House, 1882).

“I thought, if I were only a man it would be no hardship to me, nor even a cross, to preach, but rather a pleasure. But for me, a woman, to preach, even if I could; to make myself a subject of ridicule and comment among my friends and kindred, and thus also bring reproach upon our glorious cause!”

“I would to God that all who have children entrusted to their care would feel the great responsibility thereby imposed, and realize the infinite importance of early religious instruction; for in general, manhood and old age Continue reading

Be the Church ~ Love, Act, Walk

Has the church left the building? Are you following Christ into all the world?

Check out these opportunities to Be the Church!

Renters in your community may benefit from this workshop. The Fulton County Office of Housing and Community Development will host a workshop to educate tenants on their rights and responsibilities, Wednesday, November 9. The workshop will be held from 1until 2 p.m. at the Bethlehem Neighborhood Center located at 87 Thayer Street SE in Atlanta. The workshop will provide information on understanding your lease, security deposits, importance of timely remittance of rent, reporting repair needs, and the eviction process. For more information, contact Audra Pender at 404-612-3024.

National free webinar, Strengthening Families Impacted by Incarceration, November 9, Wednesday evening at 7, sponsored by Annie E. Casey Foundation, Evangelism Today Christian Church, Forever Family, Christian Association of Prison Aftercare, and Healing Communities USA. This webinar is for churches and para-church organizations that support families dealing with incarceration and for those impacted by the incarceration of family members or loved ones. Get details and register  

“Dream the impossible dream” with the Saint Mark Drama Ministry as they present Man of La Mancha in November.  Performances are Nov 11-13 and 17-19. Find tickets at tickets.

Mission and the Bible -Rev. W. Harrison Daniel, associate professor in the practice of history and mission at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, will explore how biblical texts inform our understanding of mission and how mission informs our reading of the Bible, Nov. 12, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Candler in Room 102. Daniel has taught at seminaries in Liberia and Austria, is a former commissioned missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries, and has served pastorates in South Georgia, Scotland, and Austria.  This Mallard Lay Theology Institute Disciple Scholars event includes continental breakfast and lunch. The cost is $30 per person with an additional $10 fee for CEU credit. For more information and to register, go to 

Board & Friends Celebration of the Children’s Peace Center at Turner Chapel AME, November 15, 6-7 p.m. PEACE mobile will be open to view and play from 7-9 p.m. Turner Chapel AM, 492 N. Marietta Parkway, Marietta 30060.  Everyone is invited!

RRISA will host an extraordinary benefit concert and internationally-themed reception on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the concert will support RRISA’s humanitarian programs serving refugees in Atlanta.  Renowned local children’s book author Carmen Deedy and multiple Grammy nominee John McCutcheon have generously offered to entertain a crowd of up to 250. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, at 2089 Ponce de Leon Avenue in the East Lake area, has offered their venue for the event. John and Carmen will also sign books and CDs for concert-goers after the show. Many Atlanta-area restaurants have graciously agreed to participate in the benefit and are providing a variety of traditional ethnic foods from many of the international populations RRISA resettles and serves inAtlanta. Tickets are available online at and also at Finders Keepers Furnishings, 2753 East College Avenue, Decatur, 30030. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the night of the show. Learn more about RRISA at

The Work of Our Hands Artists’ Market will celebrate its 9th anniversary from November 17 – 20 at the Cathedral of St. Philip located at 2744 Peachtree Rd. in Buckhead.  This show features nearly 75 local and regional artists offering fine art, folk art, and crafts, including paintings, glass, fabric and wood art, pottery, jewelry, sculptures and many other handmade and original gifts in a variety of price ranges. An opening night reception will be held on Thursday, November 17 6:00- 8:00.  Tickets are $15 per person at the door.  Admission to the market on Friday, November 18 – Sunday, November 20 is free and open to the public.  Hours are Friday and Saturday 9:00-5:00 and Sunday 8:30-1:30.  Please read all about this organization and the programs that benefit from this show at  our website For more information on the event contact Carter Hoyt at

The Georgia Teen Institute would like to get out this information of help and interest to those who work with teens or who are pursuing credentials for that work. Click on the underlined names for information.
Fundamentals of Prevention – November 16 and 17, Lawrenceville ;  
Governor’s Office for Children & Families Educators’ Conference – November 30 – December 2, Atlanta ; 
Cultural Competency for the Prevention Professional – December 13, Lawrenceville.

Hey, Batter, Batter, ~ Swing! Matthew 25:36

What a unique way to live out the gospel of Christ – baseball, casseroles and corrections!

“I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” ~ Matthew 25:36

Inmates build gazebo with UM men and baseball team

BOONVILLE, Mo. –Eight inmates from the Boonville Correctional Center worked with men from Nelson Memorial UMC and the Central Methodist University baseball team during the week of Sept. 12th to build a gazebo at the Boonville Rolling Hills Park.

The team also stained a hospital gazebo they built last year and refurbished a YMCA ramp they built in 2003.

In 2006, men from the correctional center and the church built a bathroom at the New Franklin City Park, and in 2005, they built a retaining wall around the prehistoric Indian mound Continue reading

turn – It’s your’s!

“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” ~ Matthew 25:36

What would it look like if 300 men voluntarily went in to a maximum security prison to be challenged and taught by inmate preachers?

What would it look like for fathers and sons to gather together around a table with convicted felons to talk about God and life?

What would it look like for ‘free’ men to spend the night sleeping in a cell in a former death row cellblock?

Turn Logo

March 23-25, 2012
For two days, inmates are Continue reading