The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

Reentry Programs Vital for Healthy Communities

Posted by thelamp on December 14, 2006

A record 7 million people – or one in every 32 American adults – were imprisoned, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, the Justice Department announced in November. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Nov. 28.

The fact is, every year an increasing number of Americans are incarcerated. Most will one day return to neighborhoods across the country. The Second Chance Act, which died in the 109th Congress, would have gone a long way toward helping released felons become productive citizens.

“We must remember these are American citizens who were punished for their offenses, not lost to society. As more mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles and cousins join the population of ex-offenders, the more important it becomes to give them opportunities to repair their lives,” said Pastor Rod Parsley, founder and president of the Center for Moral Clarity. “Families and neighborhoods need Christ-centered compassion and direction, to help those who have wandered return to communities and prevent the potential for repeated criminal offenses.”

More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more. Failure to help these men and women restore their lives will result in a crisis that affects all parts of a community.

Men far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing faster. During the past year, the female population in state or federal prisons increased 2.6 percent, while the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year’s end, 7 percent of all inmates were women. The gender figures do not include inmates in local jails.

These figures fail to capture incarceration’s impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison. It is good news that across the nation, Christians are engaged with inmates and their children. Such programs have been going on for a long time, but they are now more important than ever.

The Bible urges followers to visit those who are in prison, but the compassion of forgiveness does not end there. For those coming out of the criminal justice system, the outside world can be a startling adjustment, beginning with finding housing, employment and transportation.

Many of God’s repentant children do not have a place to live once they leave the corrections system, and find themselves homeless. Helping ex-offenders maintain stability may help keep them from going back to prison.



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