In the shadows of society’s conscience lies a group of individuals often forgotten and stigmatized: the incarcerated. Prisons are seen as places of punishment and isolation, with little hope for change or redemption. However, amidst the harsh reality of life behind bars, there exists a beacon of hope and transformation known as “Prison Ministry.”
The heart of prison ministry is rooted in the belief that every human being, regardless of their past mistakes, deserves forgiveness, compassion, and the opportunity for redemption. The core of prison ministry lies in the power of forgiveness and the truth that how God can transform and restore, regardless of what you might have done.
As a Judge, I witnessed some of the darkest parts of humanity, having presided over bitter divorces, cases of abuse, and even a capital murder trial. Despite this, I firmly believe that no one is beyond the grace of God and that He offers even the most violent criminal forgiveness if they only accept it. Though I’m limited in how I can participate in prison ministry due to my position as a Judge, I am grateful to the men and women who volunteer their time and money to reach the incarcerated population.
Incarceration can be dehumanizing and can lead to a loss of self-worth. While prison is a necessary component of a lawful and orderly society, many inmates feel that they are in a dark pit, rejected by society and without hope. In “The Kids’ Pit,” I shared some of the stark reality of prison life through the eyes of Preston Curtis, who is wrongly incarcerated for his Christian beliefs. The fact is that many individuals do not understand what it is like in prison, nor do we recognize that prison is actually a field ripe for harvest.
By recognizing the intrinsic value of everyone, prison ministry helps inmates see themselves as more than their past mistakes, enabling them to find a sense of purpose and worth through the hope of Jesus Christ. One transformative way prison ministries interact with inmates is through hosting nights of worship. Worship is the act of taking your eyes off yourself to give glory and thanks to the Creator. I’ve seen evidence of how just the act of worship can give hope and open the door for Gospel conversations with prisoners.
Furthermore, we can forget that imprisonment not only impacts inmates but also their families, who bear the burden of shame and emotional distress. Prison ministry extends its support beyond the prison walls by providing resources, counseling, and emotional support to families affected by incarceration. Strengthening family bonds and encouraging communication between inmates and their loved ones is crucial for the successful reintegration of the incarcerated into society.
Prison ministry is a transformative force within the corrections system, offering hope, healing, and redemption to those who have often been forgotten by society. It starts with the belief that everyone can change. We all have made mistakes and daily we fall short of the glory of God. But God, in his loving kindness offers everyone the hope of redemption, salvation, and the promise of a new start that leads to eternal life through Christ alone.
Want to get involved? Check your local churches for opportunities to volunteer. Additionally, Prison Fellowship International and God Behind Bars are two great organizations doing amazing work with the incarcerated populations!