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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Unconditional & unbelievable

Congregations serve prisoners, ex-offenders and their families

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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September issue

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