Prison Ministries

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Prison Ministry Church Survey

There is an overriding problem that takes us back to the very beginning of the penitentiary and the reason for its existence. A major problem with conventional prison ministry programs is their creation without the realization that the penitentiary itself began as a ministry and it was unique to the Americas,specifically, Philadelphia. The Quakers created the penitentiary to move away from the medieval practices on the Continent in which men and women were mutilated for thefts and other petty crimes or executed outright. Thus, penitentiaries were created to allow wayward souls the opportunity to mend their habits while isolated from evil influences. Prisoners were given Bibles and isolation for years until the Lord had time to bring these persons to repentance.

In recent decades, the goal of the penal system has been to isolate the inmate not from evil but from society, not to correct or rehabilitate the inmate but to protect society through the isolation of the inmate. What we know today from the field of psychological study is that solitary confinement only works to destroy the psychological integrity of human beings under prolonged incarceration.

What we have today are well-meaning men and women assuming that they are doing prison ministry, in the local prison. In fact, the penitentiary is simply a longstanding but significantly changed system of failed Christian evangelism. In effect, we are trying to sprout a living tree by grafting a living branch into a cut log.

There are many reasons individuals visit people who are imprisoned. Some of these reasons include the following:
To visit a relative, a friend, a potential convert, a spouse, or potential spouse, an enemy
a stranger.

Also, there are a variety of emotions that drive or motivate prison visitors. These include the following: Motivated by-Love,Concern,Curiosity,Pity,Sense of duty,Vengeance,Fear, Guilt.

The reasons and attending emotions that drive a person to visit incarcerated persons are to each their own to hold sacred. However, when we begin to think of the person who is incarcerated and desire to minister to his or her needs, some training is recommended. Indeed, if we are to be effective, it is necessary.

Most prison ministries currently in existence operate from the premise of the experiences and
expectations of the visitor, not the convict being visited. There is a need for an additional type of prison ministry. It is to this end that we present the concept behind Central California Conference. That is, a prison ministry designed for healing and renewal of the convicted.

To consider the conditions of confinement upon the convicted for the purpose of alleviating the
emotional, physical, social and spiritual pain associated with prison life.
Texts: Genesis 39 (Joseph); Judges 16 (Samson); Jeremiah 37 (Jeremiah); Acts 16 (Paul);
Matthew 25 (Jesus).

These texts are examples of the Bible addressing people in prison. There is no Biblical example of an actual person in prison who is a non-believer that people visit for the sole purpose of evangelism. The only persons recorded who leave prison alive with a new conversion experience are Paul’s jailer with his family and they were not convicts.

Jesus admonishes us to visit prisoners because it is as if we are visiting him. No content of the
visits are detailed; we are free to be creative in our approach.

1. Prison life brings with it loneliness consistent with forced separation from friends, loved ones
and the home environment.
2. Confinement diminishes one’s hope and sense of well-being.
3. Jail leads the convicted to question self, God, justice and fairness.
4. Outside realities haunt the prisoner (“What will happen to me when I am released?” “How can I help my family and dependents while I am confined?”)

The problems of loneliness, hopelessness, unresolved questions and concerns for family and self help never go away for the incarcerated person. These problems need to be addressed. Resolution of these perceived needs is a ministry to the soul behind bars.

We must address the needs of prisoners systematically.
1. Train a workforce to address inmate needs.
2. Instruct the workforce on appropriate and inappropriate interaction with convicts.
3. Teach historical background, nature and purpose of prisons.
4. Inform workforce of the steps and mechanics of the judicial system
a. Accusation
b. Investigation
c. Arrest
d. Bail
e. Prosecution
f. Conviction
g. Probation
h. Parole
i. Etc.
5. Provide appropriate intervention and referral services for convict’s family.
6. Provide a model (site) for reception of freed convicts – a setting to teach, train, assist, counsel,
guide and nurture individuals toward a changed lifestyle. The village is ideal when the villagers
have been trained to help and not harm the stranger that is within the gates. Thus, the site,
where outside services are provided, is essential to the healing and transformation of the newly
freed man or woman served by our program.

Please consider these ministries as a part of  your life, today!