Friday, May 28, 2010

Texas Conference on Ex-Offenders Transitioning to the Outside

Prison Fellowship began a much-needed program to help ex-offenders transition successfully to the outside. They're hosting a conference in late June in San Antonio, Texas. The link to the web announcement is here. I don't know all that it will cover, but PF usually does a good job at these sorts of things.

Most of my experience with prison ministry has been with in-prison work. (I did sit on a board for several years that ran a half-way house for ex-offenders.) But if I came to one conclusion it was that the men needed a lot more assistance in making the transition to the "outside" than organizations or the government provided.

The difficulties that even strong Christian men face when making the transition to the outside are daunting: They are torn from the social support of their prison church, they face the need to find a means to support them (no mean feat for ex-cons), and they often face residual hostility from folks on the outside and rejection from by their families. In short, at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives, they have almost no social or financial support structures to draw on. It is incredibly difficult, and so it is little wonder that recidivism rates are as high as they are. It is not at all that criminal activity of any sort can or should be excused, but the current system is a tragedy for almost everyone involved.

The half-way house that I was involved with ultimately had to close -- it proved impossible to find full-time staff for the facility given the resources it had to draw upon. (I wasn't asked to come on board until after it had started and had run into difficulty. While I did what I could to sustain it, in my opinion the "business model" was fatally flawed at its inception.) I'm hoping that I can learn about successful transition programs to support financially and, potentially, to get involved with.


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