Arkansas’ Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal bishops and other judicatory leaders are calling people of faith across their state to remember an often-overlooked group: prisoners.
In a letter issued by Interfaith Arkansas (IA), they wrote, “There is a great need in Arkansas prisons” and noted “that government programs are insufficient to help them successfully re-enter society after incarceration.”
IA is led by United Methodist minister Steve Copley.
The Arkansas faith community was asked to respond in three ways:
1. Provide information to IA about their congregations’ current efforts to provide ministry to persons in prison and upon their release.
2. Partner with IA in exploring ways their churches could become involved in a prison ministry.
3. Adopt a correctional facility “so that all prisons will have a faith family to help with those that are incarcerated.”
Those who wished to begin or expand a prison ministry would be offered training, consultation and resources.
This guidance would be provided by Copley, who has experience in support and rehabilitation efforts with prisoners, and Anna Cox, a clinical psychotherapist with more than 20 years’ experience in prison ministry.
The letter concluded with several suggested ways to engage the issue, which included:
â— Sending cards to inmates on holidays and on their birthdays.
â— Putting together Christmas gift sacks filled with approved items.
â— Donating books to a prison library.
â— Volunteering to help with education, arts and other needs within a prison.
â— Offering a welcoming, safe presence for prisoners as they re-enter society.
â— Watching “Through the Door,” EthicsDaily.com’s documentary on faith and prisons, to learn how people of faith are involved in prison ministries.
One of the letter signatories was Roman Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor, who was featured prominently in “Gospel Without Borders,” EthicsDaily.com’s documentary on faith and immigration.
Copley was instrumental in obtaining funding for the documentary.