The challenges awaiting formerly incarcerated men and women can be overwhelming. In prison they had little control over their daily lives. Once outside the gates, they will be making many critical choices in a world they might not even recognize. The stakes are high: Nearly 600,000 people are released from prison each year, and nearly two-thirds will be arrested again within three years.
The Church has an important role to play in reducing recidivism through reentry ministry.
Mark Hubbell, Prison Fellowship®'s area director for the Pacific Northwest, emphasizes that the best role the Church can play in reentry ministry is to help men and women walk with Christ and give them a place to belong. Not all churches are equipped with the resources to meet former prisoners' physical needs, but all churches can support them by welcoming, nurturing, and encouraging them. Any church can provide a positive, supportive community to ease the sense of isolation that returning citizens face upon reentry.
Former prisoners do have a variety of physical needs in the period immediately following their release. Many churches may not be equipped to meet these needs by themselves, but a church can be a conduit, directing former prisoners toward a network of existing resources.
Your church can contact Prison Fellowship to coordinate with local Prison Fellowship field staff and the area director for direction and guidance on how to address many of these needs.* Use the following to brainstorm how your church and local community can meet these needs.
Contact our Program Support Center at 1-800-251-7411 for further guidance.
*It is strongly recommended that your church have a designated, trained reentry volunteer who understands the issues surrounding reentry and who can assess an individual's needs. A trained reentry volunteer can distinguish the difference between actual needs and wants. Many men and women are required to have a plan for many of these resources before they leave prison. Prison Fellowship Academy graduates will have a release plan, and reentry volunteers can help coach them as they follow through with their release plan.