Over 600,000 inmates will be released from America�s prisons this year, returning to neighborhoods across the country. These men and women are coming out, like it or not.
What kind of neighbors will these returning inmates be? What has been done to prepare them to live healthy, productive, law-abiding lives? Each of us has a stake in seeing that these men and women make a safe and successful return to their communities. Yet, today very little is being done to help them make that transition successfully.
Most offenders will be returning from years in overcrowded prisons where they were exposed to the horrors of violence including homosexual rape, isolation from family and friends, and despair. Most are idle in prison; warehoused with little preparation to make better choices when they return to the free world.
Further, little is done to change the moral perspective of offenders. Most inmates do not leave prison transformed into law-abiding citizens; in fact, the very skills inmates develop to survive inside prison make them anti-social when they are released.
For prisoners to return to their communities safely and successfully, we need much more than government programs. Government programs can�t love someone, only people can do that. This is one of the roles the Church is called upon to take in our communities: to minister to the least of these. This book explains why you and your church should become involved in helping returning prisoners, and provides practical ways to help.
- Xulon Press
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This book opened my eyes to the fact that, whether we are ready or not, people are returning from prison, but it's up to us to decide what they return to. Will it be their old habits, old friends, and old neighborhoods that got them into trouble? Or will another avenue be offered to them with guidance, skills, and perseverance as their new habits? When a newly-released person needs to learn these new habits, the Church communities are a good place for them to seek help. This book gives all communities useful and practical tools on how to help with a long list of resources. It's always easier to learn from the resources provided in this book rather than each community having to re-invent and re-invest in the same old strategies. The prisoners are coming and now we can be prepared to greet them with the tools they will need to stay out of prison.
Pat Nolan's 'When Prisoners Return' is a superb book addressing the issues faced by former prisoners as they return to society. It is filled with practical advice and wisdom on how the community can help them make a successful transition. We have implemented his suggestions, with great success! This fast-reading book is a great resource for anyone working with prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families!
Pat Nolan¿s When Prisoners Return is an operating manual for church based organizations that are committed to helping ex-convicts successfully return to their own communities but not quite sure as to how to do it. Although it has faith as a major component of its program, much of the program deals with day-to-day issues such as helping the returning prisoners find a place to live, create resumes, get access to job interviews, etc. Additionally, the program¿s success is linked to the prisoner starting it prior to his or her release. What it is not is a program that will appeal to the moral relativists who think that criminals are the victims of society who should be pitied. Rather, the book (a term I use loosely since it is only 60 pages of text and almost 80 more of good reference material and organizational information) places the status of the victim where it belongs: with the victim. The criminal is seen as someone who has made the wrong moral choice. There is no equivocation or relevance about right and wrong here, and that should appeal to Christians to whom morality still means something. Additionally, it is not an eye-for-an-eye justice book either. Although quotes from both testaments are used, the healing and forgiving nature of the New Testament is emphasized; however, the cold hard reality that most ex- convicts should never be allowed to take advantage of those who are trying to help them is not ignored. But, help them we must! Since faith and community are the focus of the help program described, it would seem that this book is better suited for churches in communities that have a ¿problem¿ with returning convicts. Church communities that have few or no occasions of returning convicts seem to be left out of the equation, and that is a shame although I certainly do not think it is the intent of the author to exclude them. Mr. Nolan¿s own example of his experience with the Angel Tree organization is an example of how church members who do not have a recurring returning prisoner issue can help. A chapter on limited and partial involvement for churches like the ones I described (or ones that might be hesitant to join in due to the very nature of the program) would be helpful in prodding them to at least try to help. A small seed might just germinate into a giant oak as a result. The references in the back can help one accomplish this goal, but one has to hunt to find the right ones. Whether your church organization is interested in partial or full participation in helping prisoners, their families, and their communities, you should by this work.
In When Prisoners Return, Pat Nolan brings a unique perspective to these questions: why and how should we care about the criminal justice system. Nolan's explanation of why we should care appeals not only to our sense that a better criminal justice system would mean a safer community, but also to our sense that prisoners and ex-offenders, though they have committed a crime, are still people with spiritual and material needs. After establishing why we should care, Pat provides an interesting perspective on how we should care. As an ex-offender himself, Nolan's suggestions have added weight and truly make sense. In addition, the list of resources in the back of the book would be very helpful to anyone looking to make changes in their justice system.
This book provides great insight into the numerous challenges facing prisoners who are re-entering society. Drawing from his work and personal experiences, Pat Nolan lucidly illustrates the anxiety released prisoners face as they reenter society; even simple, everyday decisions can be overwhelming to a recently released prisoner. Thankfully, Nolan does more than highlight the numerous dynamics of this major societal failure; he also suggests practical methods of involvement for anyone concerned about this issue. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who seeks a better understanding of a convict¿s life after prison.