On January 16, 45 people representing 28 churches and organizations gathered for one of Urban Alliance’s regular Beyond the Basics learning communities. The meeting provided an overview of the program development opportunities being offered in 2020, as well as highlighting significant upcoming meetings, trainings and events. The highlight of the meeting, however, was a presentation titled Coming Alongside Returning Citizens.

I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Matthew 25:36

Information about Connecticut’s criminal justice system and prison population was shared, as well as strategies to plan for successful re-entry and the unique needs of Returning Citizens.1 Three men from Youth Challenge of CT shared powerful personal stories about the reentry process and churches were invited to become a Second Chance Church – a church that desires to show the love of Christ to people reentering the community after a period of incarceration by intentionally providing support and resources. These churches not only welcome Returning Citizens, with systems in place to facilitate that, but also have a designated a Mentor who will work with them.

understanding the need

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. More than 650,000 inmates are released from U.S. prisons every year. That’s almost 2,000 people every day. Nearly two-thirds of these released prisoners are arrested within three years. While this statistic is overwhelming, research suggests recidivism is less likely when a person reenters the community with a strong network of support.

The process of successful reentry is very complex, dependent on a multi-pronged approach, including collaborations between state and municipal governments, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, families, residents and people involved in the justice system. For this reason, the body of Christ has a unique opportunity to support people reentering the community after incarceration.

 “For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.”

Psalm 69:33

If Jesus was on earth today, we would likely find Him in the prisons, talking and dining with criminals and outcasts. He would be there “to seek and to save the lost!” Jesus identifies strongly with the weak, the helpless and the outcast. He considers the way we treat them to be the way we treat Him. Churches exploring the option to become a Second Chance Church is one way we can take part in this work that is so close to God’s heart.

Is your church interested in becoming a Second Chance Church? You can download the Second Chance Church information booklet, or reach out to Jessica Sanderson at Urban Alliance.

1 an individual reentering society after a period of incarceration. Returning Citizens are working to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into the community.

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