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

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

Justice? Mercy? How does the church respond?

In just under two hours Troy Davis is scheduled have his sentence completed in the State of Georgia. Much debate has been promoted through the media, most of it opposing the use of the death penalty. People from all walks of life, ethnicity, and religious backgrounds are weighing in with their thoughts around this particular case. Prayer vigils are being held around the world to try to stop the execution. Clergy, politicians, retired lawmakers, and other dignitaries have been speaking publicly against carrying out the sentence in this case. In the meantime, who is speaking out on behalf of the victim, Mark MacPhail, in this case? It seems that it is only his family.

I am appalled, disgusted, embarrassed, and disappointed in my brothers and sisters in Christ in this moment. The family of Troy Davis needs your support in this time, but why Continue reading

Ministry in the Criminal Justice System

Barbed tape at a prison

Image via Wikipedia

In an effort to develop, publicize and promote support for ministry to people affected by/through the criminal justice system I am writing a series of articles for the UMC newspaper and will also publish on my blog. I would like to ask you if you would take the time to share YOUR story with me. You can do this by simply answering some of the questions below that are relevant to your personal experience and adding your own comments. I will likely need to edit in order to be able to share without revealing personal details and to keep the article appropriate in length and content.

1. What caused you to initially become involved in prison ministry?
2. How long have you been going into jails as a ministry?
3. And, what changes have you seen occur in that period of time? Like changes in the make-up of the jail population, and the way the prisoners are treated?
4. What was the most difficult aspect of that work? What was your greatest challenge?
What was the most rewarding?
5. Did you find that the prison systems in which you worked were hostile or supportive toward Continue reading

Monday MaDnEsS! “Judge Rejects Inmate’s Request for Satanic Bible”

A federal judge struck down a convicted inmate’s request to allow him to have a copy of the Satanic Bible on Monday.

Illinois inmate Kevin Halfmann, who is an atheist, said he needed the book to practice his religion. He claimed that the Illinois Department of Corrections had denied his constitutional rights by not allowing him a copy of the Bible.

However, security concerns led U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson to reject his petition after hearing the case during a one-day trial.

Halfmann, who is serving a sentence at the Centralia Correctional Center for predatory criminal sexual assault, testified practicing his religion primarily meant following the ritual of ‘self-happiness” and having fun on the main holidays – one’s birthday and around Halloween.

He could be released in 19 years, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

However, Terri Anderson of the state Department of Corrections told the court specific parts of “The Satanic Bible” seemed to encourage “hatred and violence,” not to mention curses.

“For instance, a passage reads: ‘If a man smite thee on one cheek, smash him on the other,'” she said.

By the end of the day, the judge agreed with Anderson.

“Due to the security risks involved, Halfmann, like all other state prisoners, should be denied ‘The Satanic Bible,'” the judge said.

The Satanic Bible has been banned in Illinois prisons for more than 20 years due to it’s potential to incite hatred and violence.

Church Receives two Fake Money Orders in Offering plate

By Maria LockwoodSuperior Telegram

The last place parishioners of Faith United Methodist Church expected to find bogus money was in the offering plate. But during a July 24 worship service in Billings Park, someone dropped not one but two fake money orders in the plate.

“It kind of boggles my mind,” said Joel Certa-Werner, church pastor.

Each of the counterfeit money orders was for just under $1,000. No name was listed in either the “to” or “from” Continue reading