THE INCARCERATED are among the fastest-growing populations in the US. Approximately 4,500 are added to the prison population each month. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2004, there are more than 2.2 million inmates in the nation's jails. The 2004 figures reflect a record 32-year continuous rise in the number of inmates. ...

Entering the unfamiliar world of inmates entails moving outside comfort zones, and those who desire to do so will receive little encouragement. ... The criminal justice system is dominated by notions of retribution, vengeance, punishment, and isolation. The core values of the Christian gospel—forgiveness, compassion, redemption, reconciliation, restorative justice—run counter to prevailing sentiments in the justice system. ...

Though the obstacles are formidable, the potential benefits to pastors and congretations are substantial. And much is at stake: faithfulness to Christ's mandate and mission, renewal of the church's witness and ministry, the theological integrity of the church's proclamation ... the well-being of more than 2 million inmates and their families.

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Why give thanks?
November 20, 2006

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