When Danny Amos left prison, he entered a world that was exceedingly bizarre and foreign to him. Having spent five decades behind bars, Danny had never bought his own clothes, and didn’t even know his size. Something as common to most of us as the automatic doors at WalMart were the source of endless amazement to him. “I didn’t even know how to use a can opener,” he admits.
Danny had first been arrested when he was 11 years old, and had been in (or attempting to escape from) at least 34 correctional facilities for virtually all of the years since. He was released last August with the clothes on his back, a check for $3.70, and absolutely no support network to keep him from returning yet again to prison.
Fortunately for Danny, he ended up in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin.
“I think the Man Upstairs brought me here, personally,” Danny says in retrospect.
Nichole Strom, the case worker assigned to Danny after his release, did not expect him to fare well in his return to society. Searching for ways to improve his odds of staying out of prison, she reached out to her church, Alliance Church of the Valley, hoping they could provide the community and nurturing Danny desperately needed.
The church—and the whole Balsam Lake community—has stepped up to the challenge, providing Danny with encouragement and opportunity.
“Some of the biggest pleasure I got from [helping Danny learn to drive] was watching Danny’s face,” says Dana Frank, a church member who is mentoring Danny. In an interview with KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Frank tells about the childlike wonder he sees in Danny whenever he tries something for the first time, be it using a riding lawnmower or learning to fish. “There was an innocence,” he says. “A true innocence.”
Danny is now giving back. He has become a member at Alliance Church of the Valley, and is a regular volunteer for church service projects. He has also started a GoFundMe page to help other former prisoners re-enter into their communities.
“Danny found Danny Amos here,” Frank says. “And I think he found the Big Guy here, too.”
Across the country, there are men and women leaving prison and returning to towns and neighborhoods. Many, like Danny, are returning to a world that they do not recognize. Having not made decisions on their own during their incarceration, they can struggle with things as seemingly common as ordering off a menu or figuring out what to wear. Technology that can be a challenge to those of us who have not spent years behind bars can seem insurmountable to those who have never used a cell phone or written an email.
Churches like Alliance Church of the Valley can play an invaluable part in making sure former prisoners acclimate to life on the outside. These “bridge churches” provide physical, real-life help for things like housing and employment; mentoring of life-skills that weren’t a part of prison life; and the spiritual and moral guidance that can help individuals like Danny Amos stay out of prison for good. To learn what Prison Fellowship is doing to equip churches to serve men and women returning from prison, and to find out how you and your church can be a part of it, visit www.prisonfellowship.org/reentry.