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Prison Ministry

STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE PRISON MINISTRY – By Hezekiah Olujobi

Hundreds of ministries throng prisons daily with the aim of preaching and converting sinners to God and hundreds of inmates make the decision daily to follow Christ. During our inauguration of the ministry in 1999, we asked this question from the inmates who assembled in hundreds in the Agodi prison chapel: “How many of you have come to the prison before and given their lives to Christ? Why are you in prison again? About forty inmates raised up their hands. When we called them one by one to give reasons, about ten of them gave the same reason of rejection from their family as a result of the decision made to follow Christ and rejection from the Christian cycle that they hoped would receive them.  Other reasons were lack of trust and lack of where to go after leaving prison. This is what gave birth to the decision to establish a Halfway-Home.

We cannot blame those who reject ex-inmates. Many of these people have suffered unpleasant experiences in the hands of unregenerate ex-inmates. These criminals, upon their release, are wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing and go about hurting the sincere people who try to help them.

Some Christian organizations in their zeal spend so much on the inmates on rehabilitation and cannot at the end tell a success story. As a result, they fold up the ministry. There is the story of a church that was so generous in giving assistance to ex-inmates, who said they have decided not to give assistance to them again. Any inmate who goes to them is wasting his time. Well, the attitude of the inmates should not be the reason why we should not lend a helping hand in deserving cases.

Let us derive inspiration from the scripture we read. We shall take the reading from verse 1-9 Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Rehabilitation of ex-inmate is a difficult ministry but through our years of experience, we continue to overcome the difficulties. As a result of the experience, we formed an enduring policy by which we operate. And each time we go out of the policy we suffer the same consequences as those others. Today we are boldly to say that most of our candidates through this policy are fully rehabilitated totally integrated into the society, and are productive in their chosen fields. The risks attached to this work is drastically reduced through these guidelines.

THESE ARE THE REASONS WHY WE SUCCEED

  1. Before we render any service to an inmate, we must have enrolled such inmate on our monitoring and corrective programme while he or she is still in the prison.
  2. The person must have been touched by the Holy Spirit and by the leading of the Holy Spirit we are led to take up his or her case.
  3. The inmate must be under our supervision for at least one year before we admit such to the Halfway Home.
  4. We must have had contact with his relation before his freedom.
  5. We must understand their bad habit and always counsel them to work on it. (As we often tell them, “The way you live your life here will determine your future after you leave the Prison)
  6. We create more time to be with them on a one-on-one basis while they are in prison for counselling. (As a result of this, we build their confidence in our relationship with us)
  7. We build a relationship and develop trust among them to monitor themselves.
  8. We get a report on the individual and confront them when it is necessary.
  9. One of the greatest keys you can use to get to their hearts is the promise of freedom and shelter upon freedom, on which we often deliver.
  10. We maintain contact with them after leaving the Half-way Home by contacting their relations and doing a proper handing over.
  11. We visit them or call them on phone from time to time to monitor their progress.
  12. We solicit funds and other resources on their behalf to equip them for rehabilitation. Unless we go for them, nobody wants to believe their story. (We stand in the gap for them).
  13. When in the Halfway-Home we train them on the right attitude for rehabilitation. (When you are teaching them on the right attitude you must also conduct yourself in the right attitude. Be the first example).

WHAT WE DON’T DO

  1. We don’t take them about soliciting for the fund.
  2. We don’t present one case to various churches or individual.
  3. We don’t raise fund when there are no needs.
  4. We don’t present a story that does not exist.
  5. We don’t give aid to criminals to escape justice. We don’t support any attempt to cheat or shortcut justice.
  6. We don’t intervene in any case with an emotional sentiment.
  7. We don’t give up our hope on those that prove hard.
  8. We don’t allow them to be going about with a testimony that is not true. (We examine their testimonies and investigate their stories).
  9. We don’t take money from them or their relations when we are helping them.
  10. We don’t admit inmates on referral. We help only the inmates that we have known from prison. Inmates referred to us by people or organizations or churches have created serious problems for us in the past.
  11. We don’t influence any matter to favour the guilty offender.

Without building your relationship from within the prison, it is impossible to successfully rehabilitate any inmate. The Bible says “Jer 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

  1. I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

 When you see them going about begging with excuses that they just left the prison, they are looking for immediate assistance to meet their immediate needs such as drugs or food or other things best known to them to satisfy their appetite. So if you are talking about salvation with such a person or you are planning rehabilitation for such, it can’t work. Even while in the prison their devotion is not guaranteed, because you don’t know what they do after leaving the chapel to their various cells.

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