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Priest urges communities to welcome those leaving prison

Priest urges communities to welcome those leaving prison

Rev. William H. Barnwell of New Orleans is an Episcopal priest active in Kairos Prison Ministry International. He writes in the Times-Picayune of the need for churches and civic organizations to do more to welcome back to the community those who have served their time, as they struggle to find jobs and housing. Barnwell writes:

Often, they are not able to find housing, and the families who are willing to take them in sometimes can’t, because there is no room. Worst of all, our returning citizens face a culture of shame, as they try to find a new life for themselves.

When military personnel returned from imprisonment in Vietnam, from the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” we, as a people, knew just how hard the transition back home would be. At our best, we effectively helped them make that transition. It is just as hard, harder, for men and women returning from years and years in our state prisons and jails. Not only do they face shame, they are often stunted in their ability to make good decisions, for in prison practically all decisions are made for them.

I am well aware of the argument that comes back at me: “You are coddling these people. You give them financial help of any kind, and they’ll just use it to invest in more drugs, more crime.” But I am not talking about that kind of help.

Read his column here and let us know of successful efforts to re-integrate ex-offenders into society after they’ve served their time.

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