Coming home prison ministry

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This dissertation is the story of how the Reformed Church of Bronxville (RCB) implemented and measured a practice of restorative justice with special emphasis on the following: mentoring, fellowship, life skills classes, public policy discussions, public policy advocacy and the sharing of narratives. These efforts define our Coming Home Prison Ministry for post-incarcerated individuals. The Coming Home program was part of a process to educate the whole community and move us all forward on an interactive service and learning journey involving congregants, participants and others in a variety of engaging and rewarding activities. In this document an examination of relevant contexts is provided: first, a brief history of the United States criminal justice system; next, a review of the efforts of other churches with regard to this population; then, a Biblical basis for restorative justice as it is relevant in understanding the church’s response; and finally, a description and report from evaluative activities to review the RCB journey. Reflection on the transformative process integral to how churches can be meaningfully involved in restorative justice is considered. The data and information included herein are designed to help other organizations to replicate our efforts. In this paper the results of several focus groups, questionnaires and surveys are presented to quantify and evaluate learning which has taken place and shifts in perception since this ministry began. The results show that RCB’s work with the post-incarcerated has created a more informed community which engages more deeply in mission work with the poor, now moving beyond charity and working for systemic change. People are more understanding of systemic issues and are better prepared to identify and address the root causes of problems. The process of transformation was evident as people “lived their faith.” Living your faith is a generative power, and Coming Home provided an opportunity for congregants to do this, using their gifts to meet the needs of participants and to grow in understanding, compassion and awareness.  
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