A New Virtual Platform Is Inspiring Hope Within Prison
The author of Hebrews calls on Christians to "remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison" (13:3). This has been the heartbeat of Prison Fellowship® since our inception. But how does one remember the incarcerated when correctional facilities across the country are closed and restricted due to a pandemic? How do you share hope and community when you’re forced to social distance?
In March, after President Trump declared a national state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prison Fellowship knew we would have to get creative to continue our mission.
SHARING HOPE THROUGH FLOODLIGHT
Prison Fellowship has served prisoners, former prisoners, and their families for more than 40 years. Our vision is to see all those affected by crime and incarceration restored to God, to their families, and to their communities. While the current public health situation has temporarily affected some of our programs, our commitment to that vision is unwavering. We continue to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ into prisons however we can, advocate for a more restorative criminal justice system, support second chances, and work to support and strengthen families with a parent in prison.
The big question, though, is "How?"
Most Prison Fellowship programs are in state-run facilities. State departments of corrections are working closely with health authorities to make the best decisions for their facilities. Earlier this year, nearly all decided to temporarily halt admission of outside visitors due to the virus' ability to spread quickly.
These decisions affected the daily operations of our in-prison programing, including our Prison Fellowship Academy®. But Prison Fellowship field staff have continued to work closely with our valued DOC partners to actively cooperate with them on ways we can continue to serve them and the people under their care.
One exciting offer we've developed is Floodlight™. Through this new program, Prison Fellowship is offering positive inspirational and educational content available to prisons across the country. This provides men and women restricted behind bars much-needed education and uplifting entertainment.
FEEDBACK FROM PRISONERS
As of September, Floodlight is now available in over 300 prisons, reaching more than 500,000 prisoners. We have partnered with 19 organizations to provide content, including Alpha, Celebrate Recovery, the Global Leadership Summit, and Courage for Life. Floodlight also includes brief shoutout videos from athletes, musicians, and other notable guests. And more content continues to be added.
PRESS FOR FLOODLIGHT
- "Amid Virus Lockdowns, Prison Ministry Groups Had to Adapt," Telegram.com
- "Prison Ministries Shift Focus to Mail-In and Digital Content for Inmates," Ministry Watch
- "Pandemic Turns Prison Ministry Inside Out," World Radio
The response has been encouraging:
During the pandemic we are not able to have visitors nor chapel services. In fact, [our facility] is on total lockdown due to an outbreak here. We use the [Floodlight] on the institutional television channel that has been assigned to us and program on it 24/7. The inmates are able to tune in to be encouraged and instructed during this very difficult time.
– Prison Chaplain in Illinois
We are very appreciative and grateful that Prison Fellowship has given us access to their material. We love it. It has been a great help and an uplifting time while on lockdown.
– Prisoners Incarcerated in Oklahoma
It came at a time when we needed it the most.
– Prison Chaplain in Delaware
CONTINUING OUR MISSION
"Although COVID-19 may have closed the doors of America's prisons, it couldn't shut out the hope of the Gospel," says James J. Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship. In addition to Floodlight, we have also continued our work through:
- A virtual Prison Fellowship Hope Event™ for Easter.
- The Storehouse, Prison Fellowship's exclusive store for prison chaplains.
- Continued advocacy work for the incarcerated and the men and women who work in corrections.
- Virtual Angel Tree Sports Clinic events, as well as Angel Tree care packages.
- And more.
And now, as the country cautiously reopens and adjusts to a new way of life, Prison Fellowship is bringing Hope Events safely back to correctional facilities.
In an interview with World Radio in August, Cody Wilde, national director of Academy operations, shared that Floodlight and the Prison Fellowship response to COVID-19 reminded him of the miracles of Jesus:
I've been reflecting a lot on the stories in the Gospels of Jesus feeding thousands of people with, you know, some bread and some fish. The principle being, you know, they brought what they had and just waited expectantly for the Lord to do something, something miraculous.
Prison Fellowship continues to serve those affected by crime and incarceration by bringing Jesus what we have and waiting expectantly for the Lord to do something miraculous.
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