Prison Fellowship

Inmates Give Back to Angel Tree

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted February 12, 2013

La_Palma_250pxEvery year, hundreds of thousands of inmates who otherwise couldn’t provide Christmas gifts for their children do so through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program. In 2012, some Arizona inmates decided to give back – in the amount of $3,300.

La Palma Correctional Center, a prison privately operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, houses 3,100 men in several compounds. In 2011, says Chaplain James Brunk,  one in six inmates signed their children up for Angel Tree, so the men have come to know and value how the program enables them to connect with their families. When Compound 2 held a fundraising food sale – offering items like slices from Pizza Hut and hamburgers from MacDonald’s for sale to inmates – an inmate advisory council selected Angel Tree as the charity to receive the proceeds.

According to Chaplain Brunk, Angel Tree has been an important part of inmate life at Palma since shortly after the facility opened in July 2008. There, designated elders and deacons of the inmate church play an important role in advertising and administering the program.

“The second year that we had Angel Tree,” explains Chaplain Brunk, I turned around to [the inmate church leaders] and said,’ Here is a wonderful opportunity for you to bless the inmates around you … You should be letting guys know this is here to be a blessing.’ The inmates themselves got really excited about it.”

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Who’s My Neighbor?

By Steve Rempe | Posted February 11, 2013

On January 30, three young brothers were canoeing the Salmon Creek in Washington state.  The river current was strong that day, swollen by a week’s worth of rain, and the boys found themselves unable to control their small craft in the rushing water.  The boat capsized, sending the three boys—the youngest of which was eight—into the icy cold water.

On shore, Nelson Pettis heard the screams of help from the frightened youngsters.  He quickly scanned the creek, and saw three heads bobbing in the water.  In a split second, he chose to put himself at risk, diving into the rapids in an attempt to save the boys.  Soon, two other men—Larry Bohn and Jon Fowler—joined Pettis in the creek.  Fighting the current, they were able to direct the boys to dry land, dodging fast-moving debris as they made their way to shore.

The three men are rightly being hailed as heroes who risked life and limb to save the lives of boys they had never met.  And yet, the most interesting part of the story might be why these heroes were in the vicinity of the creek in the first place.

As fate would have it, Pettis, Bohn, and Fowler were performing maintenance work at a nearby park at the time of the capsizing, members of a work release program from the nearby Larch Correctional Center.

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Basements and Borrowed Bibles

By Jim Liske | Posted February 7, 2013

photo-jim“It’s not going to last very long.”

That’s what everyone said about Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) – a values-based prisoner reentry program drawn from the life and teachings of Christ – when it started in Lino Lakes, Minn. The inmates who signed up met in the basement. They had no books but a few Bibles, some borrowed and some torn in half, so that more men could read them.

Ten years later, the doubters are silent. The same men who studied borrowed Bibles in a prison basement are now free and living productive lives – graduates of the program have a remarkably low recidivism rate. The Lino Lakes IFI is out of the basement, too. The program has its own building and a beautiful chapel. Recently I was there for a graduation ceremony and anniversary celebration.

At the ceremony someone recalled IFI’s difficult early days, when the students were getting flack from their fellow inmates. One day, eight IFI students were on the prison yard, feeling depressed. One student remembered that when David felt downcast, he sang. So all eight men started singing praises to God – right there on the yard. They got funny looks, to say the least.

“But now,” the man rejoiced, “when we sing, everyone sings with us.”

These men, who had been rejected by the culture and the community, are having a lasting impact for good. They are changing the culture of the prison – and their communities on the outside. The doubters may have said IFI wouldn’t last at Lino Lakes, but it’s doing more than survive – as God works through the time, prayers, and financial gifts of friends like you, it’s making a difference for all eternity.

Forgiven, Not Forgotten

By Carolyn Kincaid | Posted February 6, 2013

Beth_1_300x200Beth awakened in a sterile hospital room with a few familiar faces crowding over her.

“You’ve been in a coma for two weeks,” her parents told her. “You were in an accident on New Year’s.”

She panicked.

“Was anyone hurt?” she asked. Her dad, a pastor, hesitated to answer.

“Yes,” he replied, his voice shaking.

She tried to put the pieces back together as she lay in her hospital bed, but her foggy memory failed to recall what happened that fateful night . . .

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Johnny Cash: Prison Reformer

By Steve Rempe | Posted February 4, 2013

Most people remember Johnny Cash as a legendary country music singer – the iconic “Man in Black” who sang tales of hard living and fighting against the system.  Christians are familiar with his story of redemption – a rebel turned evangelist who often used the stage to proclaim the saving grace of God through Jesus and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps less familiar to listeners of Cash’s music is his commitment to the legal reform of the prison systems in the United States.  In addition to his many performances inside prison walls, Cash was a tireless advocate on behalf of those for whom he performed, even speaking before Congress about the nature and purpose of incarceration.
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Your Infinite Impact

By Garland Hunt | Posted January 31, 2013

photo-garlandWhen God works on the inside of a person, the transformation of their heart inevitably overflows into their life. In the same way, if we are doing God’s work inside the prisons, we will effect change on the outside. What begins behind bars will bear fruit in homes and communities.

Around 700,000 men and women are released from prison every year. The way they live their lives will impact their families and their peers. As president of Prison Fellowship, I invite you to help us ensure that more and more former inmates reenter society changed by Jesus Christ, with the life skills, renewed thinking, and character traits that will put them on the road to success.

Prison Fellowship works toward successful prisoner reentry through programs like the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a values-based reentry program proven to dramatically reduce recidivism, and Prisoners to Pastors, a rigorous, seminary-level course that produces graduates with biblical training and a mandate to go back and impact their homes and communities for the cause of Christ.

As we have been for decades, we remain committed to serving and building the Church within the walls. But we want the lives changed in prison to bring revival on the outside, too, as spouses and parents and children and friends see the dramatic change that Christ produces in prisoners’ lives.

As you give, pray, and volunteer with Prison Fellowship, you are stirring fires inside the walls, but also on the outside. You are bringing change. You are investing in infinite impact – the transformation of a society that desperately needs to know and follow Christ.

Influential Warden on Curbing Recidivism

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted January 29, 2013

Warden_Cain_300x200Burl Cain, a member of Prison Fellowship’s board of directors and the long-serving warden of Angola Prison, was recently interviewed by the Acton Institute for an article appearing on its website. Since Cain took over Angola in 1995, it’s gone from being “the bloodiest prison in America” to one of the most revolutionary. What was the key? According to Cain, inmate prayer is at the heart of Angola’s transformation.

“I think Angola proved a lot of things that even Scripture says that does not need proving, like II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name would turn their face to Me, I will heal their land.” And that’s what happened here, because this prison’s culture has changed, not because I’m a smart warden or because of the authority here. It changed solely because these inmates were praying to God to heal their land, and He did,” Cain told the Acton Institute.

And how does that change get exported to the culture? When prisoners who have been transformed by Christ are released back into society, says Cain.

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Introducing Frontlines

By Prison Fellowship | Posted January 29, 2013

Frontlines is a video series that brings you close to the work of Prison Fellowship through the lens of Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske’s encounters with the inmates and families. In this inaugural video, Jim reflects on meeting with Jonathan, a 15-year-old boy longing for a different future.

 

“Even the Guards Cried”

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted January 23, 2013

Angela Patton is the director of Camp Diva, an organization that helps empower young women. In a TED Talk, she explains how her organization arranged a father-daughter dance for 16 men and their 18 daughters – inside the county jail! The dance gave the men a rare opportunity to show their daughters how much they cared by dancing with them, pulling out their chairs for a meal, and giving them their undivided attention. The scene was so touching, Patton says, that “even the guards cried.”

 

 

Young women with a father behind bars desperately need to understand that they matter to their dads, because a girl’s relationship with her father helps determine how she will view herself, and how she will think she deserves to be treated by other men in her life. Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program also helps connects absent fathers with their daughters, demonstrating that in spite of the mistakes fathers might have made, their daughters are still loved, valued, and full of unlimited potential.

One Envelope, One Stamp, One Pencil

By Jim Liske | Posted January 18, 2013

photo-jimRecently I received a letter from two women in their early 20s. They were inmates at Rikers Island in New York, and they had written on the front and back of the same sheet, because together, they were able to come up with just one envelope, one stamp, one pencil, and one piece of paper. They wrote out of poverty. They had come to the end of their material resources. They had come to the end of themselves. But they asked for something that could make that rich beyond their wildest dreams – Bibles.

These young women are not unusual. Up to a dozen inmates will write on a single piece of paper, pleading for a Bible, access to Bible studies, and prayer. They know where the power to change comes from, and thanks to the support of friends like you, they know they can write to Prison Fellowship for support.

But what if there was no one to whom they could write? Would Prison Fellowship be missed? It’s a valid question we must all ask ourselves: Are we spending our days on work of such vital importance that others would notice if we stopped?

I believe that with your support, God is calling us to redouble our ministry to prisoners and their families in 2013. Without this work, too many would have nowhere to turn. As one of the young women at Rikers wrote, “I decided that I would like to be closer to God and learn how to be more like Jesus Christ … I would like to … get a free Bible because I don’t have access to one. Me and the inmate on the other side of this paper are anxious for a prompt response.”




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