Demetrius* is my friend’s brother. He ‘s been released from prison, has been for seven months. He was serving 5-10 years for possession with intent to distribute in Louisiana. He served five years, he’s on parole, and he still owes a hefty fine.
Let me tell you about Demetrius. We call him D, he’s tall and handsome. He has a quiet sense of humor. He makes fun of himself a lot, but also teases about the society around him. His niece and nephew adore him. D has been learning to cook and clean in appreciation for the roof over his head. The little old widows in the neighborhood absolutely rely on him to help them with heavy lifting, yard work and sometimes just a listening ear. His daughter was born three months after he went in. He doesn’t hear from his baby mama, but her brother stopped by to tell D that he owes five years of child support and the amount is rising every day. The man offered an “opportunity” for D, one which would violate his parole. D declined, and the brother left with a vague promise of negative consequences to D if the child support is not paid.
Release is great news! Yet, he’s so disheartened at not finding a job that my friend isn’t sure how hard he’s still looking. He stays with their sister, and job hunting isn’t really a safe topic for conversation. Little brother reacts badly to what feels more like judgement than concern. What does a family member do in such a circumstance? Avoid? Confront? Both have definite hazards.
THE BIG QUESTION
How do we as a community of faith help?
Hope Restored is in Monroe Louisiana. They are offering a series of classes designed to help people when they regain their freedom. Things like anger management and parenting. AA meets in their facility to aid addiction recovery. There are counselors available to people who come in. They also sponsor a recovery house which provides a place to live while women find their way to employment, sobriety and housing. Their goal is also to sponsor a men’s house. This work is so vital and necessary!!
Prison Fellowship has programs for grassroots ministries to learn more about the difficulties of re-entry and ways to address them.
ROOM FOR MORE
Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country. Yet, a Google search for ministry’s helping prisoner re-entry provides minimal results. There is a huge opportunity here! We can make a huge difference not only in the lives of the former inmate, but in the lives of their children and other family members.
I’d love to hear about what ideas you have. Are you working in a ministry addressing this?
*Not a real name