From what I have learned of the prison system in Michigan, there is a great deal of “down time” for prisoners and little focus on rehabilitation. I don’t know how this compares to other states, but it is no wonder that many who are released in Michigan return quickly, often within a matter of months.
Add to this observation my experience of participating in a prison bible study group once a week, and I have become more committed than ever to remaining a part of prison ministry. The men who attend this bible study DO actually read their bibles. They DO actually study. And they DO look forward to attending this weekly meeting. Why, they know more about the bible than I do! It is a shame that there is no one who is formally educated to guide the group (one man told me he’s never met the chaplain!). Nonetheless, I have been amazed by the interactions within the small groups. I have observed respect for one another, help provided when someone cannot pronounce a word, and discussion that is aimed at those involved, consciously speaking to the level each person is at. I see sincerity and openness in these men. I see men who are looking forward to release, men who are really trying to shape their lives in a positive fashion.
If we, the volunteers, are among the limited outside examples for these men, then we have an extremely important role…one that should not be taken lightly. How in the world do prisons expect offenders to be changed without rehabilitation or guidance ? Simply by punishment?
I actually LIKE the men I meet every week. I respect them and I recognize that they are making an effort. Where, on the other hand, is effort from the prison system to grow these men and women into responsible citizens? If we who are taxpayers want to see our dollars go toward constructive SOLUTIONS, we should be demanding effective rehabilitation for anyone who has not received a life sentence.