The foundational ideas animating the Lampstand prison ministry-that it takes a reformed criminal to reform criminals and that the conversion approach must be intellectual-are ideas I have been working with since the beginning of my reformation from criminality at age thirty five, as I began seeing the world from the perspective of a college education (leading to a successful criminal rehabilitative college-based educational program I developed and managed) and continuing to the final washing from my spirit the last remnants of a lifetime of criminal thinking twenty years later, in the waters of baptism.
The Lampstand prison ministry—for the protection of the ministers, the prisoners, and ultimately the objective furtherance of the ministry—is based upon community, distance, books, and time.
The ministry is built upon a community of parishioners, providing distance teaching to prisoners about the social teaching of the Church complimented by her history through the suggested books, and taking all of the time necessary to ensure conversion begins to take hold.
This ministry will provide a path to conversion for prisoners upon release, and for those prisoners who will never be released— who are serving life without the possibility of parole and who have the prison status to pursue the way of the prison monk or spiritual warrior—a transformative prison conversion that can occur through their study of the teaching and history of the Church.
This prison conversion is an optional outcome which can ultimately lead to the further conversion of other prisoners.
Some preparative and logistical elements of prison ministry should include:
- Four reference books which Lampstand suggests would be very important for the ministry group to read and discuss before beginning outreach are (1) Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition. Stanton E. Samenow. Ph.D. (2004) (2) Criminal Justice and the Catholic Church. Fr. Andrew Skotnicki, O. Carm. (2008) (3) The two volume work of Fr. Rodger Charles, SJ, Christian Social Witness and Teaching: The Catholic Tradition from Genesis to Centesimus Annus, (1998) (4) H. W. Crocker III, Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, A 2,000 Year History, (2001).
- Set up a Post Office Box for distance teaching.
- A minimum of four parishioners are needed to start a ministry community.
- Seek a retired law enforcement parishioner to become part of the ministry.
- Group reading and response of all letters to and from prisoners.
- Work with a maximum of four prisoners at a time, with each weekly meeting focused on one of them, or with each monthly meeting focused on each of them sequentially, and one letter a month minimum to each, with money (for stamps, paper and envelopes, books, commitment).
- At the prison you choose to work with, ask for an interview with the Catholic Chaplain and the appropriate correctional officer to determine the details of prisoners you are dealing with, what are the details of their criminal history—and make sure you have access to the public court record involving their crime and subsequent sentencing.” (pp. 43-46)
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