Reflections from a TPJ facilitator: “We’re always amazed how God makes himself visible to people in prison.”

 

“I’ve never had a course where someone hasn’t said ‘There’s something different about this group – what is it?’”

As a volunteer-driven organisation, we rely on your support and donations to serve those in prison, and their families. Our volunteers run courses like The Prisoner’s Journey (TPJ), an 8-week course that introduces inmates to Jesus, allows them to ask questions, and learn more about the Christian faith. 

Rosy is one such volunteer, and she knows the incredible power of a course like TPJ.

“It’s a process of discovery,” she says. “Those 8 weeks are crucial – we see it play out in an amazing way. Someone will say in week 4 or 5, ‘I just stopped swearing. What’s that about?’ These are the natural side effects of being in God’s word. TPJ is very distinct from anything else.” 

Maria* had always been a fighter. She was a very passionate leader and had a short fuse. But something changed when she joined TPJ. After a fellow inmate had hurt Maria’s relative in the prison, she confronted her, but instead of becoming aggressive and physical as she usually would, she was peaceful. “My muscle is our Father God,” she said. “People are asking me, ‘Are you going to bash her?’ And I said no, I’m going to give her a cuddle.” 

“The course is really well-designed in that the participants create the safe space themselves. We have a piece of paper and we invite them to establish the rules for the space and the course. They add things like ‘respect’ and so we tease out what that means. Then all the girls sign the piece of paper, and they keep themselves and each other accountable throughout the course” 

Rosy says, “There are always people who want to stick around and hear us as we pray, but not participate. But invariably, by the end of the course, they want us to pray with them. One woman asked if she could pray one day – the next time she marched into the room glowing. She told us she had prayed on the phone with her husband for the very first time. It had been the most precious experience. She was so excited for what this could mean for her to be able to pray with her husband.”

 

“We’re always amazed how God makes himself visible to people in prison. On the outside we have so many access points and support systems open to many of us. But when those are taken away, God shows up in dramatic ways. Over and over in our courses, people say to me, ‘This makes sense, but I just don’t know if this is real.’” 

Invariably, God shows up to these people. One girl in particular said she had a really rough time, and she wanted to know if she could trust God. We prayed for her, and the next week she was a completely different person. She said, ‘I had a dream, and it was the most powerful thing. I saw Jesus and he showed me that I could trust him.’”

“We’re amazed at the way that God works. We just trust him. The last course we did, there was one lady who never gave anything away the whole time. Izzy*, was very closed off. She was just there to get out of her cell. She was just playing the game. But she still came every single week. We would pray for her and pray for her. But the very last graduation day, still very blank faced, she got up from her chair and went to the front of the room, grabbed a whiteboard marker and signed her name on the board and said, ‘I’m in’. Her body language changed instantly. It was like this veil fell away. She had been taking in what we were talking about, and it was incredibly powerful to see that God is always at work. It reminds us to be consistent in prayer because God always wants to break through.” 

“Our graduation day is a very special day, so we make a really big deal of it. We celebrate together, we invite the participants to share something – a song, a memory, something they’ve discovered. It’s a really encouraging time. One of the girls shared a story about how when she was at her worst time in life, planning to end it all, God showed up for her. She saw a vision of a cross that glowed before her. She had been trying to figure out the significance of that vision, and she had found that through The Prisoner’s Journey.” 

“The women all thank us so much at the end of the course. It’s overwhelming! They’re very special relationships because they’re formed in a really safe space in what is otherwise not a very safe space.”

“It’s the greatest privilege of my life so far – to be part of this team is really special. We all grow together.”

 

 

 

40 Year Celebration – Postponed

Meet the Board- Gavin Mann

Online Exhibition

Meet the Board: Ruth McCrindle

Dramatic Transformation

The Mystery

Camp for Kids

Is 1% as Small as We Think?

It is estimated that 45.6% of all released prisoners reoffend within two years alone. This figure varies state by state, but every state sees more than a third of ex-prisoners back in the system within two years.

Returning back to society is much harder than it may seem. There is always a complex array of factors that influence a person’s propensity to reoffend. Some of the most significant issues include age, education, employment, aboriginal status, and mental health.

Why does it matter?

Preventing reoffending is economically beneficial for the Australian community. The national operating expenditure on prisons in Australia was $3.9 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year (excluding capital costs). This is equivalent to $94,000/inmate p.a.

With an estimated 44.8% of 47,000 released prisoners returning to prison within two years, this presents a great financial burden on the economy.

It begs the question, then, what alternative measures would be more beneficial to prisoners and the wider Australian community?

Prison Fellowship Australia was privileged to take part in the 2019 Actuarial Hackathon, an event sponsored by the Actuarial Institute, Finity Consulting, and Pacific Life Re. We conducted research to discover the economic benefit of reducing recidivism by a mere 1% (approximately 500 ex-prisoners).

The study took into account:

  • Direct Costs: the cost to the system of holding inmates
  • Productivity Costs: lost productivity of inmates and their support network
  • Other Costs: including non-financial costs and support programs
  • Release Costs: the costs associated with the initial release of a prisoner

DIRECT COSTS

These are the variable costs associated with operating the prisons borne by the government (and therefore the taxpayers).

A reduction in recidivism of 1% would save approximately $40.6 million p.a.

PRODUCTIVITY COSTS

This is the value lost due to incarceration in the form of salary and payroll tax borne by the inmates and the government.

Prisoners would otherwise be employed, creating approximately $118-173/day per person on average. (This includes paid and unpaid work).

However, prisoners also create value during imprisonment through employment and community work. This offsets the value loss by an estimated $52-73/day.

When extrapolated over an average prison sentence, this equates to $12.1-18.3 million p.a.

NON-FINANCIAL COSTS

Non-financial (economic) costs of crime refer to the time, energy, and resources diverted. While difficult to measure accurately, it is still estimated to be $96.7 million.

RELEASE COSTS

Certain post-release costs can be considered unproductive if they do not produce the required outcome of preventing recidivism. These include: parole and supervision, housing services, legal services, employment services. (Other release costs have not been included: support groups and counselling, drug and alcohol programs, training and mentoring programs, childcare assistance).

Unproductive release costs equate to a minimum of $8,500 per inmate.

It is difficult to get an accurate gauge on the non-financial and release costs. However, even if only considering the reduction in direct and productivity costs, reducing recidivism by 1% equates to nearly $60 million p.a. saving to the Australian economy.

What now?

Prison Fellowship remains committed to working with Corrections Departments, chaplaincy services, and faithful volunteers in order to engage meaningfully with prisoners and others affected by crime. Prison visitors and restorative justice programs offer the transformative love of Jesus, targeting the heart behind the crime. We trust in a patient God, who desires that none should perish, but that all might come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Joanna Mann, Staff Writer

September 8 – 15, 2019

Dear Prison Fellowship,

In your latest letter, with survey, you said you would like to get to know your supporters better. So I am writing this letter in response.

I do not consider myself a great supporter of Prison Fellowship as I have many monthly financial commitments. However, I have supported Prison Fellowship since its early days.

[Many years ago] I witnessed an accident involving Owen Davidson*. He was riding a stolen motor bike and crashed into an oncoming car at a T-intersection. He lay for a time on the road in front of my stationary car. (I was waiting for the car to pass that he hit as he sped past me). I thought he looked like a person no one could love. (Isn’t it strange the thoughts that enter your mind). Straight away God spoke to me and said, “I want you to pray for this person that he would come to know that I love him and that I can make something good & beautiful of his life.” I began to pray for him not knowing who he was. Nearly a year later I was summoned to appear at his court case, but in the end, I didn’t need to attend as he pled guilty. I then knew his name though.

When [a serious crime received significant media coverage], Owen’s name was mentioned on the news & I checked and sure enough he was the person I had continued to pray for.

I guess it’s nearly 30 years I have prayed for Owen. I never see any results but I know God doesn’t send us on fools’ errands and one day Owen will know how much God loves him, and God will “restore to him the years the locusts have eaten”.

So yes I am interested in Prison Fellowship ministry and give every now and then. I believe it is a wonderful ministry.

I am 83 years old and have 2 children and 7 grandchildren.

Blessings on your ministry, volunteers, and prisoners.

Yours in Christ,

Elsa Johns*

__

Unbeknownst to Elsa, two Prison Fellowship volunteers have been visiting Owen regularly, since he entered prison. The beauty of the body of Christ is that each part has a vital role in the Great Commission. Without both prayer and action, the work of Prison Fellowship would be ineffective. Praise God for his faithfulness to Owen and for raising up workers for the harvest, both in prisons and in prayer.

*Names have been changed


To find out more about Prison Fellowship’s annual Week of Prayer, go to https://prisonfellowship.org.au/week-of-prayer/