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Second Chance month helps prisoners rebuild lives after incarceration

The Christian faith is all about second chances, and no one needs a fresh start more than men and women in prison.

“If we believe in the message of grace, if we believe in the message of redemption, then we have to believe it, not just selectively but for everyone,” Heather Rice-Minus, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, told CBN News recently. “That includes people who are in prison. One of the most beautiful messages of the gospel is that we don’t earn it. It’s all through the power of Christ. I think it’s a great time of year, coming off of Easter, to remember that the power of the cross is there for everybody.”

Prison Fellowship started Second Chance Month in 2017 to support men and women with criminal records looking to restart their lives on a positive footing. Rice-Minus said 70 million Americans have a criminal record, noting this “pervasive problem” touches millions of Americans’ lives. That’s one in three adults.

“A lot of times people complete their punishment in prison or get their criminal record and community supervision — whatever it may be — and they think they’re done,” she said. “But a lot of times people come out and they face a lot of challenges. We want people to no longer commit crimes, but then we make it really hard for people to earn an honest living and provide for their families. And there’s just a lot of stigma that comes with having a criminal record.”

Rice-Minus believes employers should spend more time examining a person’s attempts to rehabilitate and not simply ban them because of their past. Over the past few years, Prison Fellowship has seen some positive moves in this direction Walmart, Google, and other companies have stepped in to participate, saying they want to hire people with criminal backgrounds who have positively changed their lives.

“I would just love if in every church across America, it was just part of our DNA to welcome those home who have experienced the justice system,” she said “To be a place where people can feel seen, heard, loved and feel belonging.”

Rice-Minus wrote a piece for the Washinton Examiner laying out the importance of the effort and how culture could be changed.

“We need an enduring culture of second chances because people can and do change. From the first steps of their journey, each person entering the criminal justice system needs opportunities to choose a different path, tools to embrace accountability and transformation, and a fair chance to contribute to their fullest potential — inside prison and after release,” she stated. “People who commit crimes need to be held accountable, but leading with punishment and not setting people up for success hasn’t gotten us anywhere. For the 450,000 returning home each year, investing in second chances makes us stronger and safer.”

For Prison Fellowship and the individuals, businesses and churches that make it happen, the opportunity to make positive change is a year-long effort.

One former inmate who graduated from a Prison Fellowship program in prison says he has opportunities with the help of the ministry and others.

“I know that I have people and resources out there that I can tap into, that I don’t have to go back to the same life I was living. I don’t have to keep doing the same things, you know? And that’s what really matters,” he said.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice






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