Highlight: The hope of restoration

While there are still big problems in the criminal justice system, amazing life-change is taking place through the various outreaches of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

According to President and CEO, James Ackerman, one of the goals of Prison Fellowship is to bring about restorative justice in the justice system.

“We advocate for fair justice in the justice system, but we want to return and partner with Departments of Corrections in preparing people to live successful lives on the outside.”

He elaborates on what restorative justice might look like in an individual’s personal life and in their community.

“We want to see a whole generation of incarcerated men and women coming into society, who are becoming church leaders and are serving their communities; they are entrepreneurs, starting new businesses, etc., versus just locking people away.”

To bring forth the hope of restoration, Prison Fellowship has launched the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Texas and Minnesota. James expands on the purpose and mission of this initiative,

“This program is a yearlong intensive program that addresses people’s spiritual needs. It focuses on discipleship, but also very practical life skills like dealing with addiction issues, dealing with anger management, learning to take responsibility for their actions in their life, living financially free, living a financially balanced life, and readiness for living successfully on the outside.”

Men and women who are seeking lifelong change and a new value system have experienced real heart transformation through the InnerChange Initiative. James discusses the root issues that may have caused these men and women to be behind bars in the first place.

“I was with the women who is in our current class and some graduates. Every single one of them, except for two, raised their hand when we asked, ‘have you had a substance abuse issue?’ “

“Drugs is the first cousin of a lot of crime. Drugs may or may not have been the crime for which they were charged; they may have gone and burglarized somebody in an effort to fund their drug habit, or they may have been on drugs when they committed a violent crime against somebody, but drugs was there as part of the problem. Addressing that is a big issue.”

He stresses the importance of meeting spiritual and emotional needs of the inmates in order to promote restoration and justice in their lives.

“Addressing issues of things like self-esteem and understanding that God really loves you; Jesus loves you, you are loved. Some of these women have never been told in their entire lives, ‘You are loved.’”

James refers to a quote from Charles Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship, as he describes unity and restoration in the body of Christ.

“Chuck had a phrase that I loved and he would he would say this often, he would say, ‘The ground is level at the foot of the cross.’

“In God’s eyes we are the same and showing that kind of love and respect to people is really important and transformative.”

As Christians, can display a high level of dignity and respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ by welcoming them into our communities and encouraging them along their path of restoration.

James Ackerman is a seasoned executive with over 20 years of experience worldwide in leading advanced media companies. As President and CEO, James leads Prison Fellowship in its mission to restore those affected by crime and incarceration.

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