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There is little debate remaining that the United States has a significant problem with the recidivism of former prisoners. Department of Justice statistics show that one-third of released prisoners are rearrested in their first year outside prison walls. Within three years, that number jumps to 50 percent, and then to 75 percent over five years.
“My name is Carlos,” the letter begins. “I am 44 years old, a husband and father who is incarcerated, and has been for going on 9 years.”
Carlos is one of thousands of men and women who have been a part of Prison Fellowship’s in-prison programs.
In the community where I grew up, my father had a friend named Albert. Albert was known throughout town as a drunk, but my father stuck by him, anyway. He saw not who Albert was, but who he could be—a child of God full of love and joy.
For the last 14 years, there have been no yard events at Salinas Valley State Prison in California. Previous activities at the facility had resulted in violent acts, including a stabbing near the performance stage, and convinced prison officials to forgo any such programming for the safety of both performers and prisoners.
When I was growing up my father had a favorite saying. “There are two types of people in the world,” he would say, “those who need to share the Gospel, and those who need to hear it. So if you’re not sharing it …”
The words he left unsaid did most of the talking, and I always knew he meant it sincerely.
How can a man who spent years behind bars call himself “lucky”? It’s because God used Angel Tree to soften his heart.
Answers aren’t always easy to find in prison.
Behind bars, where people search for something to give them purpose and a sense of belonging, many religions and sects peddle their beliefs. In some units, where prisoners have no access to chapel services or other special events, the Truth can be even harder to spot.
The message of our Savior’s power is just as applicable within the prison walls as it is in our communities.
The following post originally appeared on the Justice Fellowship blog.
An August report released by the National Association of Evangelicals showed that 95% of evangelical leaders have been involved in regular ministry to prisoners. “It demonstrates the evangelical conviction that God offers redemption and reconciliation to all, regardless of what they have done,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).