Prison Fellowship

An Assist to Juvenile Offenders

By Steve Rempe | Posted August 20, 2012

A new law in Ohio is improving opportunities for juvenile offenders and helping them integrate back into society.

Senate Bill 337, signed into law by Governor John Kasich, allows for juvenile records to be expunged after six months, excluding convictions of murder, attempted murder, or rape.  Previously, records were not destroyed until after two years.

“Most people think your juvenile record disappears once you become an adult,” says Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick.  “Well, we’re finding out it doesn’t.” 

Dellick notes that some of these records have somehow been made public, making it hard for former offenders to attend college or to procure employment or housing.  The reduced period between the sealing of records and their expungement limits the possibility that these will become available to those outside the justice system.

In addition to shortening the expungement period, the new law allows young offenders under 21 to stay in juvenile confinement, instead of merging them with the adult prison population.  The law also establishes minimum training standards for probation programs.

All of these are important steps in helping young men and women move forward and leave their criminal behavior behind.  Of course, much more support is required after incarceration to ensure that these former juvenile offenders remain on the right path.  Counseling and encouragement are important ways to help them avoid returning to past ways.  To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of these and other inmates, please visit our get involved pages and learn more about our mentoring opportunities.

Using Prison Time to Your Advantage

By Steve Rempe | Posted August 16, 2012

It is beyond debate that serving time in prison has a lasting effect on inmates well after they are released.  Prison records follow them as they apply for jobs, attempt to procure loans, or find a place to live.  Opportunities to network with new business associates and clients have to start from scratch.  And in some states, ex-prisoners are banned to work in locations that serve alcohol, deal with children, or require some kind of state license (for example, a plumber, electrician, or even a cosmetologist).

However, some former inmates are actually using their time spent behind bars to their advantage.  A recent story in the Wall Street Journal looks at a number of cases where ex-prisoners are using their experiences while incarcerated to establish a new life.

John Webster was a defense attorney who spent 13 months in prison for lying to law enforcement officials to protect a client.  Barred from ever practicing law again, he decided to use the knowledge gained from his sentence, establishing a consulting firm that advises incoming prisoners and their attorneys on how to prepare for life behind bars, and what to expect when they are released.

Some ex-convicts use their experiences to become corporate trainers or consultants on matters such as security.  Others become authors or motivational speakers, telling others about their time behind bars, and how to avoid it.

Still others take advantage of lessons learned in prison and launch their own entrepreneurial enterprises.  Fabian Ruiz trained as a paralegal while in prison for murdering a man who shot his brother.  He recently launched a new business that mails copies of legal documents to prisoners who lack the Internet access needed to obtain them.  A non-profit program is providing Ruiz with the training and funding necessary to get his vision started.

Of course, even those who are able to leverage their prison sentences into new and legitimate careers need assistance.  Old habits must be broken, and counseling and mentoring are important to keeping former prisoners focused on their new paths.  Prison Fellowship offers assistance and counseling to prisoners and ex-prisoners alike, preparing them for life after incarceration, and offering mentoring and assistance to those who have been released.  To find out more about Prison Fellowship’s reentry programs, visit http://www.www.www.prisonfellowship.org/reentry.  And to figure out how you can be involved in impacting prisoners and their families, check out http://www.www.www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved.

Stopping the Buses Isn’t the Answer

By Timon Cline | Posted August 14, 2012

The national cost of corrections has quadrupled in the past two decades—to over $52 billion a year, according to a New York Times op-ed on April 27, 2011. This makes prison spending the second-fastest growing budget issue after Medicaid.

New York, with the fourth largest prison system in the nation, is no exception to the trend. As early as 2010, State Senators Jeff Klein (D-34) and Diane Savino (D-23) cited $15 million in wasteful government spending within the NY Department of Corrections. The amount of squandered New Yorker tax dollars has only increased in the years since. In FY10, 22.8% of costs to house inmates were outside of budget capabilities. Projections for FY12-13 indicate that correctional spending will exceed the budget again, this time by some $90 million.

All is not hopeless, however. Steps toward a remedy exist, if lawmakers and the Department of Corrections (DOC) are willing.

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Reshaping Destiny

By Garland Hunt | Posted August 13, 2012

Garland_Hunt_300x200On a recent trip to an Oregon prison, I spent time with a group of inmates. I had the opportunity to encourage them, talk with them, and pray for them.

These men were in dark surroundings, but they were so excited about what God was doing in their lives through the ministry of Prison Fellowship! One by one, they shared large and small changes that are happening in their lives as they learn to walk with God.

The trained Prison Fellowship volunteers who minister at that Oregon correctional facility are a devoted group. The inmates told me that because of the volunteers’ faithfulness, they are able to walk boldly with Christ in spite of the many diverse religious influences – from Buddhism to shamanism – that surround them in prison.

God is reshaping the destinies of men and women behind bars by bringing them into a deep, personal relationship with Himself. He’s preparing to accomplish mighty works in them and through them, and He’s doing it through an army of volunteers just like the faithful men and women in Oregon.

Is He calling you, too?

Prison Fellowship offers a variety of ways for you to join in ministry to the incarcerated and their families – whether as an in-prison facilitator, a mentor, or an Angel Tree volunteer buying and wrapping Christmas gifts for prisoners’ children. Learn more today at www.www.www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved or www.angeltree.org.

Gibson Guitar vs. Lacey Act: Round 2

By Angela Wang | Posted August 13, 2012

gibson guitarGibson Guitar may have caved under government pressure.

After an armed raid of its manufacturing plants in August 2011, the company issued a press release that declared, “Gibson has complied with foreign laws and believes it is innocent of ANY wrong doing. We will fight aggressively to prove our innocence.” This statement, along with a public campaign of protest, attracted attention to a business willing to stand up to a bullying government.

Later, in January of this year, Henry Juszkiewicz, the chief executive of Gibson, seemed ready to continue the fight: “They dragged me into the political arena, and now I won’t leave the stage until I win.”

Then came a settlement on August 6. Has Juszkiewicz and his company won this dispute over imported wood?
 
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Providing Opportunities for Ex-Inmates in New Jersey

By Steve Rempe | Posted August 13, 2012

A new law signed last week by New Jersey governor Chris Christie will help provide new employment opportunities for recently released inmates, according to a story on njtoday.net.

Previous legislation banned any person convicted of a serious crime from working for an employer that held a valid liquor license, unless they had received an employment permit from the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.  Such permits cost applicants $125.00 annually – not a small amount for someone still seeking employment – and could take long periods of time to procure.  Even positions not directly connected to the serving of alcohol, such as dishwasher or club DJ, were subject to the prohibition.

The new law permits the hiring of ex-offenders by such establishments, provided they are “not involved in the serving, selling, soliciting, mixing, or handling of alcoholic beverages.”  Sex offenders continue to be barred from employment by these businesses, as are those who committed crimes while working at a license-owning facility.

“If we’re serious about giving ex-offenders an opportunity to reclaim their lives from the cycle of crime and incarceration, then we have to recognize that the inability to find employment is one of the biggest factors contributing to the high recidivism rate in this State and around the country,” says state senator Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the bill. “If you’ve paid your debt to society, there is simply no reason why you should be banned from working in an establishment where alcohol is served. This law will create meaningful job opportunities for people trying to do the right thing and become productive members of society.”

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Spartan Race: Training Day

By Steve Rempe | Posted August 9, 2012

The PF Racing team is training hard to prepare for the upcoming Spartan Race in Leesburg, Virginia, on August 26.

If you love to run, and are looking for a new and challenging way to compete, consider joining PF Racing for this event.  It’s a fantastic way to test your limits, while offering a helping hand to the children of incarcerated parents.

When you become a member of the PF Racing team, you’ll challenge yourself and help change the life of a prisoner’s child. Each step you take gets you one step closer to helping a little boy or girl in need.

Every $10 you raise as a member of PF Racing provides a prisoner’s child with school supplies for the school year and a Gospel presentation. Every penny goes straight to the program.

Here’s how to join in the action:

•  Sign up for the August 26th Spartan Race, and be sure to sign up under a team—look for PF Racing—Team Rugged Souls.

•  Like the PF Racing page on Facebook and leave us a note on the Wall telling us you’re in.

•  We will respond to your note and show you how easy it is to set up a fundraising page.

We will also tell you about the group training going on in the area, so we can get ready for the big race together! A post-race Fellowship BBQ will take place right after the finish line on the 26th. Bring your friends and family for a short devotion, food and drinks!

Fault Lines

By Ronald W. Nikkel | Posted August 9, 2012

There is more than enough blame in the world to implicate everyone. “Blame games” are part of the air we breathe in human relationships and politics. It is so easy to see where the faults of the world lie and so we blame terrorists, and liberals, and conservatives, and criminals, and the justice system, and leaders, and teachers, and youth, and parents … the list goes on. The story of fault finding and blaming is a story as old as humankind, since the day Adam blamed Eve for the problems in the Garden, and Eve then blamed it all on the cunning serpent.

Even when it is not clear whose fault a problem or a difficult situation is, we are quick to conjecture and to speculate and to point our discerning fingers. The way we see the world makes more sense and becomes more manageable when the fault lines are clear.

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Isolating the Problem

By Sy Hoekstra | Posted August 7, 2012

Several years ago, a court in Mississippi ordered the state’s Department of Corrections to review its use of solitary confinement, also known as isolation or segregation.  The department’s commissioner and a group of high ranking corrections officials created a detailed profile of the type of prisoners they believed should be held in solitary.  The profile reflects that, like most Americans, the officials believe that segregation is for the worst prisoners, those who create violent disturbances in the general prison population, active gang leaders, and the like.  But as it turns out, 80% of Mississippi’s isolated prisoners do not fit this profile, according to this New York Times article.

Research from all over the country confirms Mississippi’s discovery: correctional officers segregate prisoners for a myriad of reasons, many of which are questionable.  Minor rule infractions or even talking back to guards can lead to solitary confinement.  Barely substantial or sometimes utterly groundless accusations of gang affiliations can have the same result.  Prisoners frequently cannot face their accusers or even hear the charges against them, let alone present a case in their own defense.  Moreover, for the lack of better alternatives, wardens often put prisoners who have mental health problems in solitary confinement, as well as those who need protection from other prisoners.  Inmates placed in solitary for minor or groundless reasons are not treated very differently than those who are in isolation for bad behavior.

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Art from the Inside

By Steve Rempe | Posted August 6, 2012

Inmates from prisons throughout Australia are participating in a unique program that allows them to show off their artistic talents to those outside the prison walls.

Art from Inside, a program run by Prison Fellowship Australia for over 10 years, provides inmates with an outlet for artistic expression, and a way to work through the issues that have led them to prison.  Those viewing the paintings are given a unique insight into the lives of the participants, and what motivates them during their sentences.

”I tend to notice, a lot of the works are around regeneration, renewal,” says Mark Bartlet, senior manager of offender services and corrections programs at the Alexander Maconochie Centre in the Australian Capital Territory. “[T]here’s opportunity, the sunrise, there’s the light on the horizon, there’s the opportunity to turn your life around.”

The works of art are being displayed throughout Australia.  In July, the paintings were featured at a conference on reentry in the capital city of Canberra.

”The same hands that can be so creative, can be so destructive,” says Prison Fellowship Australia executive director Richard Feeney. ”I just shake my head sometimes … there is something in them, it’s not all bad, it’s not all destructive.”

Around the world, Prison Fellowship seeks to nurture that “something,” to introduce inmates to a God who can take those skills and passions and use them for His purposes.  To find out how you can be a part of this ministry and make a difference in the life of a prisoner, visit our get involved pages.




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