Biblical Encouragement in the Name of Jesus Christ
STARTING A JAIL OR PRISON MINISTRY
This is offered as an answer to the requests I receive as to how a person, a group or a church can start their own jail or prison ministry. It is not intended to be exhaustive but given as preliminary guidelines. It is our prayer that it will be helpful in some way. God bless you as you serve our Lord.
Nehemiah is an excellent example of someone beginning a mission for the Lord. His heart went out to the people of
Talk with those involved in jail ministry: chaplain, administration, volunteer organizations, etc. to see what needs are not being met. Ask about the worship/teaching schedule, music needs, seminar programs mentoring opportunities, visiting those who have no visitors, correspondence ministry and aftercare follow-up. Aftercare is the biggest need because it is the most difficult.
HAVE A VISION
Be specific in how you will fit into the overall scheme of community ministry. Will you focus on serving inside a county jail or a state or federal prison? You may change your vision as you go on but it is best to start with a clear plan of action bathed in prayer and based on wise counsel.
Will this be a one person ministry working under an existing organization or will this be a new organization, either part of a church or independent. If you are going to be a separate organization you have to decide on such matters as:
Fundraising regulations and accounting procedures
The nature of the ministry and the activities to be sponsored.
Whether it will be a denominational or interdenominational ministry
JOIN THE TEAM
No matter how specialized your ministry will be, you have to fit into the overall program and cooperate with the administration, the chaplain, other ministries and service providers such as
welfare, job development, mental health, etc. Each institution has their own rules and regulations that have to be followed. Don’t assume what works in one place will automatically work in another.
Many of the people who have a heart for inmates are sometimes open to manipulation by the inmates. We have to have the attitude of Matthew 10:16: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
JAIL AND PRISON MINISTRY RESOURCES
These are a few of the resources I found helpful for anyone wanting to know more about jail and prison ministry. Some of these also have an appendix of additional resources. See attached sheet:
RESOURCES FOR JAIL AND PRISON INMATES.
C.O.P.E. Coalition Of Prison Evangelists 817.684.7870
I highly recommend their book, EFFECTIVE JAIL AND PRISON MINISTRY FOR THE 21st. CENTURY by Dr. W. Thomas Beckner and Jeff Park This book has a large appendix of ministry resources.
CORE MINISTRIES 800.967.0732
They publish: INSIDE BROTHER’S CHECK-UP and a quarterly newspaper of articles written by inmates for inmates, CHRISTIAN INMATE NEWS
GOOD NEWS JAIL AND PRISON MINISTRY 804.553.4090
Bible studies based on King James Version furnished at low cost. This mission places faith-supported chaplains in jails and prisons.
PRISON FELLOWSHIP MINISTRIES website: www.pfm.org
They have many resources, too numerous to list here. Write for the contact person in your area.
They are undoubtedly the leaders in prison ministry and have the biggest organization. They are active in prison programs, mentoring training and aftercare ministry. Ask for their free bimonthly magazine:
INSIDE JOURNAL written especially for inmates. Also, inquire about their PEN PAL PROGRAM.
They provide various helps for chaplains and lay ministers including an excellent course:
JAIL MINISTRY TRAINING MANUEL.
INSTITUTE FOR PRISON MMINISTRIES www.bgcprisonministires.com
This is a ministry of the
CROSSROAD BIBLE INSTITUTE www.crossroadbible.org
They provide courses for inmates and reentry helps for their graduates.
AMERICAN REHABILITATION MINISTRIES (ARM) www.arm.org
They offer a variety of resources including Bbile studies and greeting cards for inmates.
AFTERCARE MINISTRY RESOURCES
These are a few of the resources I discovered for mentoring, providing transitional services and following up inmates. Aftercare, including mentoring, is the key to Christian discipleship of ex-offenders.
BARNABAS FELLOWSHIP 607.292.6744
P.O. Box 743 www.inmatehelp.com
A ministry offering training and teaching materials at no cost or low cost for individuals and small groups or churches desiring helps for jail and prison ministry with an emphasis on mentoring.
CORRECTIONS.COM – www.corrections.com
Website listing aftercare organizations including a chat room, message board, etc.
CSOSA - Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (
Phone 202.220.5306 www.csosa.gov
The government has entered into a partnership with faith-based mentoring and support programs with a lead church designated to coordinate each zone of the city. It is interesting to note that the Nation’s Capital sees the necessity of church and state working together. Jails and prisons may be the only government institutions that not only allow churches in but in some states it is mandated because inmates could sue for their religious privileges.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – Correction Division
Community Transition Unit 213.473.6590
2nd. Floor R273
PRISON FELLOWSHIP MINISTRIES
They have the most comprehensive and in-depth mentoring and aftercare training materials. They emphasize helping churches organize their own ministry. Write for the area representative.
T.O.P. - Transition Of Prisoners, Inc. http://topinc.net
A very extensive, well-developed program formerly of Prison Ministries is now an independent, non-profit organization. Write for their materials and information.
There are many other ministries worth looking into and are available on the internet.
COUNTY JAIL SURVEY
JAIL MINISTRY ORGANIZATIONS, VOLUNTEERS & SCHEDULE OF SERVICES/CLASSES
SERVICE PROVIDERS: (names, addresses and phone numbers of contact people)
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT (jobs)________________________________________________
ADDICTION RECOVERY PROGRAMS________________________________________________
EMERGENCY HOUSING (homeless shelters, rescue missions, Salvation Army, etc.____________
State or Federal
FEDERAL WEBSITE: www.bop.gov (Bureau if Prisons):
STATE WEBSITE: ______________________________
TYPE: ____MAXIMUM ____MINIMUM
CHAPLAIN_____________________________________________ PHONE EXTENSION________
COORDINATOR OF VOLUNTEERS_________________________PHONE EXTENSION________
1- Prisons have much more strict regulations than county jails for contacting inmates. Be sure to understand and follow the prison’s rules. In some states, a volunteer who goes inside a prison for any reason is not allowed to visit, write or contact an inmate or his family even when the inmate is released.
2- Prisons have a greater variety of religious activities than jails do so the volunteer has to be especially cautious not to discriminate against other faiths and not to create conflicts.