APRIL IS SECOND CHANCE MONTH

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Every person has dignity and potential. But approximately 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record, which limits their access to education, jobs, housing, and other things they need to reach that potential.

Since launching the first Second Chance® Month in 2017, Prison Fellowship® has spearheaded the nationwide effort to raise awareness about these barriers and unlock brighter futures for people with a criminal record.

Together we can open the door for approximately 70 million Americans to live up to their potential after paying their debt to society!

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https://www.prisonfellowship.org/about/justicereform/second-chance-month/

William

It’s May 30, 2018, and William Jones is going home. He has been incarcerated at the Carol S. Vance Unit in Richmond, Texas, for more than three years.

“I found out [I was going home] 15 days ago,” he says. His prison chaplain brought him the news. “I hugged him, and we cried together. Two big, grown men standing there, crying together.”

William’s parents, wife, and family wait for him outside the prison walls. “The fact that I’m not there to … help them—it really lets me know how selfish I had been in my ways,” William says. “The opportunity to get back out there—to get [the] second chance that God has given me … man! I’m without words. Speechless.”

WILLIAM’S SECOND CHANCE

SCM Proverbs 31

Amber Found Hope, Recovery, and Restoration

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INSPIRING HOPE THROUGH TRANSFORMATION

Amber

“Hope is possible, recovery is possible, restoration and reconciliation are possible … there is hope for me, and there’s hope for anybody that’s in a dark place.”—Amber

Amber Bigelow grew up too fast.

Amber’s parents divorced when she was just a baby, and she was raised by her mother, who Amber says struggled with alcohol. “I took care of her more than she took care of me,” Amber recalls. Meanwhile, her dad and brother lived in a different city, suffering from addictions and unhealthy behaviors of their own.

Amber was a poor kid who struggled to make friends and mostly bonded with much older kids. “I never really fit in anywhere,” says Amber, who lived in Minnesota at the time. “I always got good grades in school, [but] I was picked on a lot. I was kind of bullied.”

DIVE INTO AMBER’S LIFE JOURNEY

A Harsh Wake Up Call

Maybe you are incarcerated like Don was, maybe you have some form of addiction, or are one of the 22+ a day Veterans and Military personnel contemplating suicide.  Whatever you are experiencing NO self-help book is going to work but as Don (and I) realized the transforming power of Christ can change your life forever.  PLEASE, I beg you to reach out to one of the contacts at the bottom of the page today. – Mike

 

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INSPIRING HOPE THROUGH TRANSFORMATION

Don Caballero

"God spoke to me, and He was very clear. He said, 'If you were to die today, where would you go?'"—Don

At one point in Don Caballero’s life, he seemed to be on the fast track to becoming a “career criminal.” After his parents divorced when he was in middle school, Don struggled with addiction, insecurities, and academic issues. First incarcerated at age 18, he spent years in and out of jails and recovery programs, homeless and running the streets. He was in custody in Fresno, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland.

“There was a point in my life where I honestly didn’t think I was going to see the age of 21,” recalls Don, “and there were some days, honestly, where I wish that I didn’t, because it felt so bad.”

The police would arrest him, he’d be released, and then he’d commit more crimes.

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Support for Friends and Family of Prisoners

Prison Ministry Resource Directory

Focus on the Family Drug and Addiction Resources

Alcohol or Drug Abuse Hotline Call (866) 916-4450

Suicide Prevention & Awareness Training Video

#SuicidePrevention Lifeline for confidential help at 1-800-273-8255

Offering Hope in Reentry

The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,833state prisons, 110federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,134 local jails, 218immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories. But people go to jail 10.6 million times each year. ¹   

You all know I am not one who is a lenient forgive and forget kind of person when it comes to criminal justice.  Yet our current system seems to be geared towards a never-ending cycle of recidivism. There are expectations, mainly through the work of faith-based groups like Prison fellowship. Here is one story. 


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INSPIRING HOPE THROUGH TRANSFORMATION

Hope

Kathy Vosburg’s first time inside a prison was at a Prison Fellowship Academy® graduation in October 2006. While visiting the original Academy at the Carol S. Vance Unit, one man told her, “We have never, ever known in our entire lives the unconditional love like these mentors and these volunteers show us while we’re here at the Vance Unit.”

That memory stuck.

Today, Vosburg is the founder of CrossWalk Center in Houston, Texas. A local, faith-based parachurch organization founded in 2016, Crosswalk offers safe, sober transitional housing, reentry and spiritual counseling, and living-wage employment placement services.

In late 2019, Prison Fellowship began a formal partnership with CrossWalk Center

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Sex Offender Registries Grounded in False Notions

As most of you know I am very conservative and a STRONG advocate for fair and reasonable sentencing. I believe a person must “pay” for there crimes. That being said once they have paid their debt to society I also believe that unfair, illogical and unproductive burdens placed upon them have no place in the criminal justice system.

Most if not all of the current Sex Offender laws do nothing to protect the public, they were passed by legislators who “just needed a bill passed to justify his (their) job(s)”¹ and for no other good reason. As an ex-mate and Prison Ministry worker/Chaplain for the past 16 years I have seen first hand the effects these laws have had on both the public (false sense of security) and ex-offenders (so many restrictions they can’t live). 

It is time the US took a hard look at these highly restrictive and destructive laws and the misinformation being spread about them.  Just maybe we can come up with a better way of protecting the public and not overly punishing those who have served their sentences. 

Nigeria is implementing a U.S.-style public registry for sex offenders. “Campaigners have hailed the launch of Nigeria’s first sex-offender registry as a vital step toward tackling reported cases of sexual abuse, which are rising across the county,” reports The Guardian. Despite a dearth of statistics, UNICEF estimates that one in four girls has experienced sexual violence by age 18. However, offenders often go unpunished because of cultural and institutional reasons. Victims are treated poorly, and complaints are not treated seriously. 

Oluwaseun Osowobi, the director of a nonprofit victim support organization, said of the registry: “It enables bodies such as schools and hospitals to conduct background checks and it will deter sex offenders because they will know their names will be published, affecting their employment and role in society.”

This is almost certainly true, as the U.S. experiment has shown. Offenders are shamed into homelessness and joblessness in the United States, often for life. 

But will the registry prevent sexual assault of women and children? If the U.S. experience is any indication, the Nigerian registry will not reduce incidents of sexual assault. Registries were implemented in the 1990s based on two erroneous notions: (1) that sex offenders have high recidivism rates that do not decline over time and (2) that parents, given knowledge of offenders’ whereabouts, are more able to protect their children. 

Since the implementation of the registries, several studies have debunked both assumptions. Regarding recidivism rates, sex offenders reoffend at rates that are actually lower than all classes of crimes except murders. And this is not because of registries either, as several studies have shown no correlation between registries and reduced rates of offending, and one study actually showed that ostracizing offenders contributed to re-offending by making it difficult to reintegrate into society, which is the largest single factor in predicting recidivism. 

Parents are no better off because there are so many low-risk individuals on registries — they cannot reasonably sort through the mountains of vague data to properly assess risks posed by individuals. Also, since most child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a family member or friend of the victim, it is highly unlikely that strangers would pose a legitimate threat to the vast majority of children. And this assumes parents bother to check registries. Many don’t, which means the sole purpose of registries at this point is to drive offenders from communities by depriving them of access to jobs and housing, regardless of their actual risk to society. 

According to the editorial board of Georgia’s Union-Recorder, this is exactly the purpose. “As a society we have determined that in the case of convicted sexual offenders, the potential danger to the general public, and especially children, outweighs their rights to resume a normal life after their debt to society is paid.” The board advocates for harsher restrictions and stiffer enforcement but proposes no real solutions. 

Such rhetoric is untethered from the facts that we have learned of the cause-and-effect relationship between the stigma and isolation that men and boys (who are primarily prosecuted for sex crimes) suffer and their sexual offending. Only by addressing the cultural causes of this problem will we reduce sexual violence. Nigerians would do well to learn from our mistakes before making them all over again themselves.

Source: theappeal.org

¹ = this is a direct quote from a former legislative aid

Today in Church History

God has selected [for His purpose] the insignificant (base) things of the world, and the things that are despised and treated with contempt, [even] the things that are nothing, so that He might reduce to nothing the things that are, (1 Corinthians 1:28; Amplified Bible)


Conversion of Chain Gang Convict, Ed Martin

Conversion of Chain Gang Convict, Ed Martin

The convict nodded as he listened to the pretty girl who was leading him through the steps of salvation on this day, January 9, 1944.

Picking up the beautiful new Bible that she had just given him, Ed Martin wrote the date in the margin of John chapter 3. “I want to write the date here next to John 3:16, although I know I will never forget it.”

A small-time criminal, Edward Martin was considered incorrigible. He was sentenced to a chain gang in Virginia. The one time that he escaped, a reward of $10 was offered for him–dead or alive.

But then something happened. Ed had a sister who was a student at Practical Bible Training School. Edna Martin asked her roommate Alfreda Enders to pray for her brother who was in prison. Alfreda, preparing for the mission field, honored the request. But she did more than that; she wrote letters, explaining the gospel to Ed and giving him Scriptures to look up. Searching for the verses she mentioned in her letters, he learned to find them in camp #6’s very worn Bible. He wrote letters back to her that showed a growing spiritual awareness.

Finally Alfreda visited the prison camp. When she asked him point blank if he was saved, Ed dropped his eyes. “Well, Alfreda, the reason I’ve never said for sure is because I don’t know for sure.”

Alfreda explained the steps of the experience that Christians call the new birth. Being born into God’s family was similar to being born into a human family. First, just as a seed (the sperm) has to be planted in the womb before a child can begin to grow, so a seed (God’s word) has to enter the heart. Second, just as a mother nurtures the unborn child, so God has long planned the conditions for salvation. Third, just as the mother suffers while giving birth, so Christ suffered on the cross to bring us spiritual birth. Fourth, once the baby is born, it begins breathing. In the same way when we cry, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” we draw our first breath as a spiritual baby.

At that point, Ed bowed his head. In a voice that could barely be heard, he prayed, “God, forgive my sins and save me for Jesus’ sake.” Immediately he believed he was saved. “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Alfreda,” he said.

Alfreda went on to explain other steps of spiritual growth. After she left, Ed put them into practice. So great was the transformation in him that a guard eventually recommended him for parole. Alfreda and Ed married and began a family. Their married life was lived for God as they pastored a Pennsylvania church and then served as missionaries in Japan. When Ed’s health failed, they returned to the United States and founded a prison ministry called Hope Aglo.

When Ed died in 1994, it was to assume the eternal life he had found fifty years before. Alfreda continued their prison ministry.

Dr. Russell Moore: Incarcerated Are Joint-Heirs with Christ

Dr. Moore
At the Justice Declaration Symposium 2019, ERLC president Dr. Russell Moore challenged 80 pastors and church leaders to remember the prisoner.

In 2017, Prison Fellowship® launched the Justice Declaration, a statement proclaiming the unique responsibility and capacity of the Church to address crime and overincarceration. Since then, more than 4,700 Christians and prominent faith leaders have signed the declaration, including Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The ERLC serves as the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Along with the Charles Colson Center for Christian Worldview and the National Association of Evangelicals, the ERLC has partnered with Prison Fellowship to shape the public debate on justice by engaging churches and communities.

In September, Dr. Moore gave the keynote speech at the first Justice Declaration Symposium. Hosted by Prison Fellowship at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., the event brought together 80 pastors and church leaders to discuss victim care, prison ministry, caring for families with incarcerated loved ones, welcoming returning citizens, and justice reform…

 

CONTINUED AT SOURCE:  Dr. Russell Moore: Incarcerated Are Joint-Heirs with Christ