BELOW ARE BOOKS THAT I WOULD RECOMMEND FOR ANYBODY INTERESTED IN POSSIBLY GETTING INVOLVED IN PRISON MINISTRY.
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For most Christians, prison culture is like visiting a foreign land, and the thought of ministering in prisons to those incarcerated is an intimidating prospect. Prison Ministry will empower any pastor, educator, or lay leader in doing effective prison ministry by providing a thorough “inside-out” view of prison life. Author Lennie Spitale offers a unique and qualifying vantage for writing about prison culture and prison ministry. As a young man, Spitale served a prison sentence for an armed robbery that was later reduced to assault and robbery. Two years after his conversion to Christianity, he began conducting a weekly Bible study in a local jail and has been involved in prison ministry for more than two decades.
Every county in every state has two buildings in common: a church and a county jail. Inside every jail are individuals who will eventually be released. Some will want to make a successful re-entry back into society. Meanwhile, in churches are individuals who may be interested in reaching those in jail with the Good News of Jesus Christ and helping them succeed at re-entry and growth in the Christian life. How will an inmate’s desire to change and the church’s desire to help an inmate change become a reality? How does a church begin the process of discipleship? The Local Church in the Local Jail provides a simple and biblical model designed to equip any person with the “how-to” of jail discipleship. Writing from the perspective of a pastor and a jail chaplain, Dr. Mitchell has the pulse of what the church needs for a powerfully effective discipling ministry.
The judgment scene in Matthew 25 is a call for believers in Jesus Christ to get out of our clubhouses and onto the streets, where the “least of these my brothers” (v.40) may be found. Let My People Go is a twelve-step invitation to our American church culture to examine what we are supposed to be doing as Christians, what we are doing, and whether what we are doing is standing in the way of what we are supposed to be doing. The man who deeply affected author Stan Moody as a Christian was a brilliant, sixty-four-year-old convicted sex offender by the name of Sheldon Weinstein. On April 24, 2009, Shelly died in solitary confinement at Maine State Prison of a ruptured spleen about an hour after Moody requested toilet paper for him. Moody has chronicled his death in a narrative titled “Death in B117” With America now boasting 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, the last vestige of hope for these discarded citizens in our jails and prisons and on our streets is a faith community now facing declining membership and shrinking revenues. Poverty and homelessness has at last come home; how we respond to it is a reflection of the seriousness of our faith.
To witness effectively and powerfully to Christian testimonies of care and compassion, of justice and mercy, of healing and wholeness, it is necessary to foster awareness of the realities of the present system of retributive justice if there is to be any hope of transformation to a system of justice which is restorative. Forget Them Not provides a history of the prison system as a means of punishment contrasting it with the relatively recent but growing practice of restorative justice. Joanne Hemenway explores the concept of disconnection as radical evil, as a separation from God who is the source of our being, and shows how our present approach to punishment fosters this evil. The present system, with its motif of retributive justice, generates shame, rejection, and loneliness which stokes the fires of anger and rage. This breeds deep disconnection which only serves to fuel further cycles of violence. Hemenway presents three vignettes designed to help explore forgiveness in the context of both retributive and restorative justice. To promote healing and connection, Forget Them Not introduces compassionate witnessing in prison ministry as a way to develop awareness and empowerment.
In More God, Less Crime renowned criminologist Byron R. Johnson proves that religion can be a powerful antidote to crime. The book describes how faith communities, congregations, and faith-based organizations are essential in forming partnerships necessary to provide the human and spiritual capital to effectively address crime, offender rehabilitation, and the substantial aftercare problems facing former prisoners. There is scattered research literature on religion and crime but until now, there has never been one publication that systematically and rigorously analyzes what we know from this largely overlooked body of research in a lay-friendly format. The data shows that when compared to current strategies, faith-based approaches to crime prevention bring added value in targeting those factors known to cause crime: poverty, lack of education, and unemployment. In an age of limited fiscal resources, Americans can’t afford a criminal justice system that turns its nose up at volunteer efforts that could not only work better than the abysmal status quo, but also save billions of dollars at the same time. This book provides readers with practical insights and recommendations for a faith-based response that could do just that.
Over 600,000 inmates will be released from America’s prisons this year, returning to neighborhoods across the country. These men and women are coming out, like it or not. What kind of neighbors will these returning inmates be? What has been done to prepare them to live healthy, productive, law-abiding lives? Each of us has a stake in seeing that these men and women make a safe and successful return to their communities. Yet, today very little is being done to help them make that transition successfully. Most offenders will be returning from years in overcrowded prisons where they were exposed to the horrors of violence including homosexual rape, isolation from family and friends, and despair. Most are idle in prison; warehoused with little preparation to make better choices when they return to the free world. Further, little is done to change the moral perspective of offenders. Most inmates do not leave prison transformed into law-abiding citizens; in fact, the very skills inmates develop to survive inside prison make them anti-social when they are released. For prisoners to return to their communities safely and successfully, we need much more than government programs. Government programs can’t love someone, only people can do that. This is one of the roles the Church is called upon to take in our communities: to minister to the least of these. This book explains why you and your church should become involved in helping returning prisoners, and provides practical ways to help.