At some point folks who have been the target of crime pick up the pieces and, depending on the level of damage wrecked, move on to rebuilt as best they can. "Victim restitution" has unfortunately devolved into a massive grant distribution program with little accountability so most must put things back together with Grace alone. I remember them in my prayers.
Then there is the way the world moves forward as we as a community and culture deal with the person who committed the crime. Because ministry to the incarcerated and their families and those working in prisons and jails are deeply important to me, I make a point of reading and talking about this.
Today I am deeply troubled. I'm not sure how I wound up on the Nebraska Corrections web-site but I'm always interested in learning more about how things are rolling at various correctional institutions and the way spiritual development programming and volunteer recruiting is handled.
So I was most disconcerted to find this on their website regarding religious services:
"The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) provides opportunities for inmates to practice their religion in the form of worship and religious educational services. Offenders under NDCS jurisdiction represent more than sixteen different religions. In order to accommodate inmates’ spiritual needs, each institution has or has access to a qualified Religious Coordinator. The Religious Coordinators assure that impartiality, consistency and equality for time, space, and resources among all recognized religions is a prime consideration. The NDCS religious program uses clergy and lay religious volunteers to provide services under the supervision of the Religious Coordinators."
No information is provided about how to contact said Religious Coordinators who may or may not be connected to a specific facility.
Those who are recruiting volunteers have buried this on the website:
"By volunteering your time, you can experience a sense of reward and challenges that strengthens your professional and personal capacities. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, please complete the volunteer application. Mail the completed application form to, Attention: Volunteer Coordinator of the Facility that you are interested in providing services for. Facility addresses are located under the Institutions link on this page." (NOTE: There is no link to institutions' addresses on the page.)
I can hardly express my concern about this because not only to do volunteers provide skills and free-world contacts that improve the inmate's experience upon release in ways that have often been demonstrated to reduce recidivism, but I believe at least as important is that visitors from the outside world make the facility a better place for COs and administrative staff to work because altruistic oversight by voters and citizens from the free-world have to reduce temptations to act impulsively or loose perspective.
This adds to my own interest in volunteering at a prison in my state where I have learned that the prison is not currently providing volunteer training. Folks, an awful lot of us who have found our way to prison ministry are not spring chicks so no volunteer training does not help in keeping a flow of ministry volunteers and literacy volunteers and AA volunteers flowing.
Again, outside eyes are better for everyone concerned!
How blessed I am to know that God's authority does not require volunteer training and the love of God reaches not only prisoners but prison staff members at all levels. It is such a challenging situation for everyone. Won't you pray for a facility in your area? Pray for the inmates, the chaplains, the DOs, the administrative staff and the Warden or Director, Prisons Boards, Parole Boards, probation and parole staff? Each of these folks deals with lots of negativity, stress and danger. No where is an awareness of God's presence needed more. No where is God's hope needed more.
Almighty God! You love us at all times and in all places. Your capacity to love and heal and stir up hope and inspire better choices is present for all of us: committers of crime or victims of crime; those living behind concrete and bars or in the free-world or those who move back and forth between these worlds. When we meet those who have experienced crime and when we visit prisons give us sweet words and kind hearts for all: our loved one, for those we minister to, for all others incarcerated, for chaplains, DOs, administrative staff, wardens and directors, for the families of blood and choice who love all these folks, for volunteers and, Lord, for all those still struggling with the damage caused by crime. We ask healing and restoration for those who experience crime in any way. No part of this experience is easy, Lord, but it is possible with You doing the heavy lifting. Thanks! AMEN