May 6, 2016

Multi-State Gathering of Faith Leaders Addresses Prison Reentry

The 8 State Prison Ministry Network kicked off its first conference exploring mass incarceration and reentry issues May 6-7, 2016. The gathering has drawn faith leaders and practitioners from New England and Mid-Atlantic states. The conference is focused on the trauma of incarceration and the impact of incarceration on jobs, housing and family. The conference seeks to support faith leaders who are committed to prison ministry and effective reentry.

The first panel focused on the stories of men and women who have experienced prison. Presenters spoke about their experience in prison and leaving prison. One presenter who spend over 15 years in prison described how his parole was awarded and then revoked because his release coincided with a politically charged debate about prison reform. When eventually eligible for parole no programs wanted him. A local pastor who ran a program for persons leaving prison took him in and has continued to support his reentry.

The second panel includes the family members of persons who are incarcerated. One presenter spoke of the shame and stigma associated with being a Latina and having a brother in prison. She spoke of the incredible support she had her mother, who passed five years ago,  have provided to her brother. "He is coming home soon and he is going to live with me," she said. She ended her presentation by declaring "she is her brother's advocate." A second presenter described how her husband went to prison in New York State for 20 years for stealing $18. This left her and their one year own son on their own. She would eventual go on to start a program to devoted to prison families --Prison Families of New York.