The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod and the ELCA
published Criminal Justice Ministry: A Congregational Handbook for Jail
and Prison Ministry, which is for those interested in and experienced
with prison ministries. It contains information on preparing the
congregation and training volunteers.
To order, contact Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, (www.augsburgfortress.org; 800-328-4648; #6-0001-6905-1; $6 per copy, plus shipping and handling).
Do people in your congregation or community
have a family member in jail? Look carefully. Out of shame or
embarrassment, they may keep it quite hidden. Once you've found them,
here are ways to help:
•Provide transportation, meals, even lodging, for family members to visit loved ones in jail. Today's prisons are likely built in remote areas away from cities.
•Pay for long-distance phone calls so children and spouses can call a loved one in prison.
• Buy Christmas toys for children of inmates.
•Help pay for day-care for children in families with a parent in jail.
• Encourage parishioners to be big brothers or big sisters to children of inmates.
• Form mentoring teams or support groups for inmates' spouses.
•Tutor children of inmates or offer homework workshops.
•Offer enriching after-school activities for children of inmates.
•Provide children's books, cassette recorders and tapes for inmates to 'read' to their children.
Like thousands of inmates released from U.S. jails each year, Charles Miller walked out of prison after 23 years with no resources to begin a new life as a free man. He had only a bus ticket, the clothes on his back and $65 to secure housing and tide him over until he found a job.
But unlike thousands of other ex-offenders who face such long odds, Miller found compassionate help from Project COPE, an ecumenical ministry run out of Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. Louis. The program pairs individual offenders with church-based committees that assist the paroled person with guidance, housing, clothing, furnishings, employment, budgeting and other services for one year after release.
"If it wasn't for COPE, I'd be out on the streets," says Miller, adding that it's more likely he would be back in jail. "They gave me a place to live and helped me out for the first month until I found me a job." Miller lived for a year in one of Project COPE's two apartments near the church.
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers