For prisoners, hope and help behind bars and beyond
Jun 18, 2012
What has been missing in the panoply of services provided to ex-offenders is grassroots, community involvement. When people are released from prison, they have the promise of often questionable and impermanent housing. Most have no money or the security of employment. Often, they return to environments that were partially responsible for leading them to make poor choices and commit crimes.
Having faced this reality, those involved with our prison congregation have answered Russell’s question posed by Leonard Pitts, “What are we going to do to help him when he gets out?”
We have created a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond.
Grounded in the principles of restorative justice that hold people accountable for their actions as they seek to find healing and wholeness in their lives, we train small, faith-based groups of six to eight volunteers to work with men released from prison. These groups meet with one ex-offender weekly and contact him daily. They help him set goals, develop action plans and hold him accountable to the actions he takes. The groups listen, support and provide mentoring. In addition, the groups direct the ex-offender to helpful resources in the community. The goal is to equip, not enable.
It is working.
Each of us grows and matures through healthy relationships and with good role models. Many who have been incarcerated have never been blessed with either. One missing link in reducing recidivism and ending the cycle that has been sadly named “the school-to-prison pipeline,” is a compassionate community willing to work with those who have paid their debt to society. To expect them to turn their lives around without outside community support is naïve.