I am just kidding, but that is what I would like to see happen to every man or woman who is sent to jail or prison each year in this country. Wouldn’t that be a great thing to happen, not only for the inmates and their families, but also for the taxpayers of our deeply-in-debt nation?
In my day I have read or heard about a lot of different approaches to this problem, but I may have, almost by chance, run across the best approach yet and it has been thoroughly tested. If you will join me mentally for the next several minutes, what I am going to share may strike a deeply responsive chord with you, as it has with me.
While you may not share my beliefs, I believe that nothing happens by accident. Everything that happens in our lives, for those of us who place our faith in Jesus Christ, is part of God’s plan. Several months ago, I wrote a column about the Crossroad Bible Institute, a prison ministry located in the state of Michigan where inmates could study the Bible through correspondence courses. This program is very effective in reducing recidivism which means that inmates who are released from prison do not return.
Again, I believe this is part of God’s plan because a few weeks ago I got a letter from Dave Glading, executive director of The Saints Prison Ministry located in Moorestown, N.J. A friend had sent him a copy of my column titled “The Crossroad Connection” after it ran in the Bluefield (West Virginia) Daily Telegraph.
It turns out that Dale knows the director Dave Schuringa, and he wanted me to know about the impact they are having with The Saints Prison Ministry. This program was started back in 1987 and is based on the very simple fact that 80 percent of America’s 2.2 million prisoners will not attend a religious program such as a chapel service or Bible study … but they will attend a sporting event at which the Gospel is presented.
Dale told me that they attempt to reach prisoners with the gospel message right on the softball field, basketball court or soccer pitch. He says “by earning their respect athletically we are then able to share the gospel with men who would never darken the doors of a prison chapel.”
He continues by saying, “Over the past 20 years, our sports teams have played more than 1,900 games in almost 300 different correctional institutions in 24 states and Canada. An estimated 230,000 inmates have attended our games and nearly 17,000 of them have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ. Each inmate participant receives a follow-up packet from the Saints within 10 days of our visit, giving them an opportunity to enroll in our Bible Correspondence School and to request a pen pal.
“Currently, there are 25,000 prisoners on our mailing list and 2,500 inmate students in our Bible Correspondence School. Each of these 25,000 prisoners also receives a hand-signed birthday card from the Saints every year. This is one of the most powerful things we do as a ministry, letting these oft-forgotten men know that someone on the outside genuinely cares about them. Finally, we operate two affiliate ministries: Jericho Ministries and Lives in Transition. Jericho Ministries provides face-to-face discipleship in 13 different federal, state and county prisons throughout New Jersey. Lives in Transition provides aftercare services such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, job training, job placement, spiritual mentoring and addiction counseling for recently released ex-offenders.”
You do not have to be a Christian or have any faith at all to appreciate what is happening here, and this is true, especially in light of these facts: America’s prison population has tripled since 1980 and is growing 15 times faster than the general population. Combine this with the fact that 95 percent of all inmates will eventually be released and 75 percent of those who are released will be re-arrested within four years at an annual cost to taxpayers of over $57 billion or $25,000 per inmate.
Here is why I said earlier that I may have discovered, at least for myself, the most effective way to help inmates “Get Out” and “Stay Out” of prison. It is documented that only 40 percent of born-again inmates return to prison and only 10 percent to 15 percent of discipled believers returns to a prison cell. This simply means that lives are changed through the power of the Gospel and all taxpayers benefit as well.
Saints Keep On Marching. It would be great to have this ministry taking place in every state in the nation. Can you and will you help? Contact information: The Saints Prison Ministry, Inc., P.O. Box 681, Moorestown, N.J. 08057 or call 856-866-9428, www.saintsprisonministry.org.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)