Congregations have long taken to heart the words of the Bible regarding prisoners:
Hebrews 13:3 “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”
Matthew 25:35 - 46 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
Throughout the years, prison ministries have sprouted up across the country, offering guidance and hope to those locked away from society. Some of the people respected most by prisoners are the faith-based volunteers who take the time and effort to travel miles to a prison to let inmates know they are not forgotten. These volunteers often are forced to go through humiliating security checks before being allowed to go inside of a prison. But, go in, they do, and they are welcomed and appreciated.
Leaving prison, many inmates take with them the values and hope taught to them by prison ministry volunteers. But, far too often, the mean streets can make a reentrant forget his or her core values, and recidivism rates bear out this sad fact. Fortunately, congregations are becoming aware that it is not just inmates who desire support, but that former prisoners released back into the community are in desperate need of all the help that they can get. Many churches have created faith-based mentoring programs that reach out to reentrants in the crucial time period shortly after release. These mentors also go out into the community to gather the lost and those on the brink of self-destruction and offer to act as a role model and life-line to successful living, no matter how long they have been out of prison. Non-judgmental, patient, understanding, and tough when they have to be, faith-based mentors offer structure and guidance as they help those with a criminal history get back on the right, and righteous, path.
A grant from the U.S. Department of Labor was instrumental for the creation of Mentoring Ex-Prisoners: A Guide for Prisoner Reentry Programs, a useful tool for those wishing to use their faith to give faith to others. The guide can be accessed by clicking on the link below.