Christianity Today dedicated its September issue to the topic of evangelicals and their ministry to those impacted by crime and incarceration. One excellent article–How Churches Change the Equation for Life After Prison–highlighted the fact that over the past several decades, Christians have entered the arena of prison ministry in hordes, but their focus has been largely on evangelism and discipleship–impact on an individual and heart level–while areas like reentry and criminal justice reform have been largely untouched.
The piece references a recent study by Lifeway Research that looked at trends in Christian churches with regards to prison ministry. According to the research, while over half of evangelical and mainline churches had a team from the church ministering in prisons regularly, only 22 percent had a ministry to those leaving prison.
The article quotes Dennis Gaddy, founder and executive of a Raleigh-based reentry organization:
Why is it that the same vans that come to the prison on Wednesday and Sunday nights to take us to Bible study seem hesitant to pick us up from our homes now that we are released?
Meanwhile, there seems to be a disparity between evangelical efforts to change lives and efforts to change the criminal justice system. The article draws out Prison Fellowship’s work as an example. While we have 11,000 volunteers ministering behind bars every year, last year, we sent just 3,000 messages to Congress calling for the passage of significant reform legislation.
“Christians really need to be working in prisons, doing advocacy, and helping with reentry,” the piece quotes Shawn Casselberry who wrote his seminary doctoral thesis on evangelical engagement in criminal justice reform. “We’ve divided these areas based on political affiliation, but we really need to be involved in all three levels.”
To learn how to become more engaged in advocacy efforts for criminal justice reform, click here.