Exploring Restorative Justice: Faith-based programs can help prisoners make transition into freedom
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, ~ Luke 4:18
In the United States each year an average of 1 million defendants are convicted of felony crimes, and 450,000 of them are sentenced to prison. In the state of Georgia, the average daily population being held under supervision of the Department Of Corrections is 57,026 persons. Of these individuals there are very few whose names or stories will be known to us unless we have a personal connection to them.
However, the results of the regular workings of an ever more increasing criminal justice system has a considerable price not only for these individuals who are incarcerated, but additionally for the wholes subset of parents, spouses, children, friends, and communities who have committed no crimes but are obligated to suffer the invisible punishments that result from our current approach to criminal justice.
In some areas of the U.S. law makers have begun experimenting with a range of community punishments that are as effective as incarceration in protecting public safety. These ideas include a mix of community-based programs such as day reporting centers, treatment facilities, electronic monitoring systems and community service. Furthermore, it has been noted that recidivism rates have been positively impacted through faith-based programs.
To that end we are now seeing some local United Methodist churches across the country that have structured prison visitation or visitor hospitality programs, Bible study in the prison, and various (next page)