“Justice that restores. What does that mean? Who are we restoring? Where are we restoring them to?”
Prison Fellowship President and CEO James Ackerman asks these questions to a recent gathering of volunteers in Tampa, Florida. The answer, he suggests, can be found in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Learn to do right. Seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)
“The point is,” Ackerman says, “care for those who are marginalized.”
For 40 years, Prison Fellowship has been working for the restoration of prisoners, families, and the criminal justice system. And volunteers have been the key to transformation in all these areas. Nationwide, 11,000 volunteers are working to proclaim the Gospel to men and women behind bars, providing care and support for children with an incarcerated parent, and lobbying for a fair and just system of corrections that seeks to restore and return prisoners to their communities.
Here are five ways you can be a part of the restoration of prisoners:
- Angel Tree Christmas. Every year, Angel Tree helps churches and individuals deliver gifts to boys and girls on behalf of their incarcerated parent. It is a chance to proclaim God’s unlimited love in word and deed to families separated by incarceration, and an opportunity to build bridges of reconciliation between parents and their children. To learn more about the program, and how you can register your church or small group to participate, visit https://www.angeltree.org.
- Men’s and Women’s Groups. For men and women leaving prison, there is no end to the challenges that come with reintegration into their new communities. In addition to meeting physical needs such as housing and employment, there are many practical questions about living in a world that has changed dramatically during their imprisonment, as well as need for spiritual support and encouragement. By “adopting” a former prisoner as they return to society, church men’s and women’s groups can provide them with the assistance needed to thrive in their new surroundings and to stay out of prison. For some ideas on how your church can help mentor recently released men and women, click here.
- Advocacy Volunteer. Crime affects all of us. From victims who feel left out of the criminal justice process, to prisoners who are too often warehoused rather than reformed, to communities that struggle to find peace and safety in the midst of rising incarceration, there is a need to create a criminal justice system that truly restores. Prison Fellowship seeks advocates that will work for a just system that will transform both prisoners and society at large. Click here to become a part of Prison Fellowship’s advocacy network, and to find out how you can work for reform in your state.
- In-Prison Ministry. In prisons across the country, there are men and women who desperately need to hear God’s promise of forgiveness and reconciliation. Prison Fellowship offers several opportunities to be a part of ministering to the needs of those behind bars, be it through evangelistic events, leading in-prison Bible studies, or by teaching classes to help prepare prisoners for reentry. Visit our volunteer section to see what types of in-prison ministry are available in your area.
- Prayer. As Christians, we are called to be in constant prayer for those around us, and for the world. Prison Fellowship’s Prayer Team offers the opportunity to join with fellow Christians around the country and around the globe in lifting up the requests of those affected by crime and incarceration. Offer your own prayer request, or come to pray for others. Become part of a community of prayer, offering our petitions to God and praising Him for His faithfulness.