Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First Kindle Review

From Missy a Kindle reader:

"Amazing Story filled with every emotion imaginable!"

Linda's book will definitely open its reader's eyes to a new world that not many care to think about. It made me look at criminals and offenders in a whole new light. She leaves you laughing one second and crying the next. Everyone has a story and this one will teach its readers to not judge a book by its cover, as it oepns your eyes to the horror, loss, sadness, and unforgettable experiences endured by women across the country. After reading these touching tales of strength, endurance, and forgiveness you will want to know what you can do to make a difference in the lives of others. Linda and the Women of Block 12 are truly an inspiration to all!

The Women of Block 12: Voices from a Jail Ministry

Free download of Kindle for PC and sample chapters.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

When God Calls Us

Merry Christmas to all of my faithful blog readers. It is always a pleasure to connect with you and to hear your comments about jail and prison ministry.

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I received a Christmas card today from a nurse friend who wrote a note appologizing for not participating in our jail ministry. She said that she had not been quite honest with me about her reasons, then went on to say she had negative feelings about the things some people in prison do to others and to society and couldn't quite get past those feelings. She also said she didn't want me to be disappointed in her.

I believe God has a job for each of us to do and we are not all called to do the same thing. That is what's so beautiful and exciting about life! There are so many ways to serve Him. My dear friend, you minister to the sick and dying and what a gift you have for ushering people into eternal life with Jesus Christ. Don't ever feel you have disappointed me-or anyone for that matter.

I was "called" to jail ministry and I'm still trying to figure out why God would choose me. I did not want to go - it was more like being dragged through the door kicking and screaming. I ignored Him for awhile, but he kept after me. Finally, a friend told me I'd better go to the jail and see what God wanted. . . and the rest of the story is in the book. You can read a few chapters FREE on Kindle.

Just click on the link above, then click on send sample now.

God bless all of you and Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mentoring an Offender - Update

Our guest blogger, Joy, is coming to the end of her year on the bracelet with a local county sherriff's department. It has been a struggle for her. She earns $10 per hour and out of that she has had to pay for rent, food, gas to go to work, and $736 per month to the county for the privilege of wearing the bracelet. Of course, those figures do not add up. Each month she has fallen short of her financial needs, but with the help of several ministries, she is going to make it.

Along the way, the sherriff's department threatened to lock her up if she couldn't pay the $736. She was told by the judge that he would not reduce her sentence because, despite her hard work and good record, his intent was to punish her not rehabilitate her. And, this past week, she was denied her one hour trip to the grocery store. The reason given by her supervising officer, "If you can afford to buy groceries, you can afford to pay us first."

Please pray for Joy. Her release date is February 9th. We thank God for providing her with a job and many good ministry friends who have helped her along the way.

Joy tells me God has provided because he has work for her to do!

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For more information about women and the justice system, please read an excerpt of my new book. It's free and easy to download.

The Women Of Block 12: Voices from a Jail Ministry.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Offenders Who Assault Children

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These statistics were posted Susan Sayor on her "Life Tips" Blog.

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics the following statistics are characteristic of offenders who violate children.

  • White inmates are nearly three times more likely to have victimized a child than black inmates.
  • One in every seven Hispanic convicts had been convicted for a crime against a child.
  • Nearly two-thirds of convicted child molesters were or had been married.
  • Child molesters and offenders were more likely to have grown up in a two-parent home and were more likely to have been molested as a child.
  • Approximately 22% of child offenders reported having been sexually abused as a child
Learn more about the effects of child abuse on women who become offenders in my new book:

The Women of Block 12: Voices From a Jail Ministry.
Now only $3.99 on Kindle!

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

10 Ways to Pray for Prison Ministries

When I ask the women of Block 12 how people can help them, they always answer, "Pray for us and our families."

If God has given you a heart for prison ministry, start with prayer. If prayer is the only thing you ever do, you will have made an important contribution.

Here are some suggested prayer topics. I'm sure you will add your own.
  1. Pray for prisoners and their families.

  2. Pray for victims of crime.

  3. Pray for the spirit of healing and forgiveness to those affected by crime.

  4. Pray for the safety of correctional officers who care for the imprisoned.

  5. Pray that inmates, everywhere, will have the freedom to worship.

  6. Pray that prison officians will allow faith-based programming for life skills, drug treatment, parenting skills, re-entry training etc.

  7. Pray for those in ministry.

  8. Pray for mentors to help offenders when they are released.

  9. Pray for reform in the criminal justice system.

  10. Pray for equal access to medical and mental health treatment for offenders.


"The Women of Block 12: Voices From a Jail Ministry."


on your Kindle or

Kindle for PC - free download

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Women of Block 12 - On Kindle

Prison ministry book now available on Kindle!

For all you KINDLE readers, The Women of Block 12 is now available at
Oh, the joy of modern technology! Just click on the link below and you can be reading in minutes.

Kindle for PC is available for a FREE download to your personal computer. And it's easy. Anyone can do it! Just click below.

After you download the free software, simply go to the first link above and order The Women of Block 12. The book will be delivered, for your instant enjoyment, to your personal computer. No muss, no fuss, no waiting.

For those who like to read with an actual book in their hands, the soft cover edition of The Women of Block 12 will be at the printer's soon.
This edition will be available to all readers and can be purchased from my website. Watch for an announcement. The book will also be available in quantity discounts for organizations that wish to use it for fund raising.

My thanks to all readers who have patiently waited for this day. It's been a long time coming and I truly appreciate your visits to my web page.

SHARE WITH OTHERS! After reading the book, Amazon invites you to write a review.

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For more information visit:

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Mentor an Ex-offender? Joy's Update

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I received a letter from the judge denying my request for a sentence reduction. He said I should be commended for turning my life around, but he believes in punishment not rehabilitation.

This is where the saying, "Everything happens for a reason" comes in. We don't always know why things happen a certain way or how they will turn out, but I know God loves me and I am sure He has my best interest at heart. As I said before, "This has been a life changing experience."

I've learned to lean on and trust in God and His provision for me. It has been very hard to be humble and accept all the help I have received from the ministries and people that are supporting me. I just couldn't believe people would want to help me, but that is how God revealed His love for me. And He has shown me that even I deserve a chance in life.

I still have old, negative tapes playing in my head, but I am growing and learning that most of those thoughts are lies from the devil. I was in treatment so many times, but I never could find any long-term victory because my thinking didn't change. The Bible is so clear that we need to RENEW our minds. So every day I have to put God's Word and good thoughts in my head.

For so long, I have been tormented with the guilt and shame of the life I lived in the past. God took this time to work on my thinking and I now know I am worthy of His love and forgiveness. Though I have made some bad choices in my past, I am a good person at heart, and I have surrendered to God's will for my life.

I have a strong desire to help other women who suffer with the same issues I have. As soon as I am done serving my time (February 9th 2010), I will let God use me any way He wants. I no longer live my life for me, but for God and His glory. I thank Him every day for saving me and for not giving up on me.

I pray that whoever reads this will find it in their heart to help people like me. Don't give up on us. Rise up and mentor an ex-offender who needs to see God's love through you.

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For more information about women offenders and how you can help visit:
The Women Of Block 12.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Project RETURN 30th Anniversary

Last night I had the distinct honor of attending the 30th anniversary of Project RETURN, a Milwaukee organization dedicated to meeting the needs of offenders and their families. How exciting to be in a roomful of (150 plus) people who are dedicated to prison ministry and aftercare. This amazing group has been serving the Milwaukee area for 30 years with job readiness and training, resume preparation, job placement, support groups, and housing assistance.

The keynote speaker at this event was Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States and The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions. Excellent reading. I highly recommend them.

Sister Prejean is a dynamic speaker who captivated the audience with stories about her work with death row inmates and her devotion to educating people about the reality of state executions. She posed the question, "Is God a vengeful God who demands death for death or is He a God of compassion?"
Prior to the evening's program, I had the opportunity to speak with Sister Prejean about her work, and my up coming book The Women of Block 12. She agreed to pose with me for this photo (actually many photos before we got one that was acceptable) and I must say she has a lot of patience and a great sense of humor. Thank you Sister for an wonderful and enlightening experience.

Watch for Sister Prejean's forthcoming book: River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.

My thanks to Jack & Kathleen Congleton for an evening of fun and friendship with two people who enthusiastically support my project.

Thank you, Bill Lange, President, Board of Directors, Project RETURN for the invitation to this wonderful event and for your enthusiastic review of The Women Of Block 12!

For more information on jail and prison ministry visit:

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Growing In Adversity - by guest blogger Joy

It's been a life-changing experience, getting into trouble with the law. It's not always fair, but as I look back, God had to sit me still for awhile so I could get out of myself and get into His perfect will for my life. Not only did God reveal His love for me, He showed me that He needed this time to change me and my thinking. As I wait to hear from the judge for a sentence reduction, I wait with patience because I know (if it's not God's will) I can trust Him to work all things out- even the financial burden of GPS (the bracelet). I am determined to advance and grow, even through this.

There are so many people, including me, who get stuck in life's hard spots. I was either too scared or too bitter to move through the hardships. Instead, I wanted the Lord to remove the trial, but it doesn't always work that way.

How a person responds to hardship reveals his or her true character. Hard times are when God's people most need to match actions to words. It's easy to say, "I trust God" or "My Lord is faithful" when life is good, but unless we recognize that He is sovereign, even in adversity, the same lips will complain and seek pity - which I was totally doing. So, I turned my eyes on God's faithfulness and His Word and He has given me peace.

In order to conquer adversity, we must begin moving through it. It is essential for a suffering believer to surrender to God's will. We may not know what the purpose is. We certainly won't like the pain, and we definitely want the situation to change - FAST. But giving God free rein allows Him to mature our faith, conform us to the likeness of His Son, and fulfill His unique plan for our lives.

So I consider it pure joy going through whatever I have to - to become all that He wants me to be. I no longer try to change the situation I'm in. I try to change my attitude toward it. I'm still a work in progress and I will never give up again and go back to my old life. I know God has a plan and is going to use me for His Glory - and I surrender to that. Thank you, again, for all your prayers!

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For more information and stories about women offenders visit:

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Criminalizing the Mentally Ill

Author Pete Early discusses the criminalization of mental illness in his new book: "Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness."

When the author's mentally ill son was arrested for breaking and entering, Mr. Early began a quest to examine how mentally ill individuals are treated by America's justice system.

"I discovered what happened to my son was not a freak occurrence. Right now, as we’re talking, you’ve got 365,000 people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression in jails and prison. You’ve got a half-million on probation, you’ve got a million going through the criminal justice system every year, and the largest public mental facility is not a hospital; it’s the Los Angeles County Jail.

Read more about his discoveries in this interview with the Texas Tribune.

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Friday, September 10, 2010


I came across this website on Twitter. Resolana is a community based non-profit organization that provides "holistic, gender-sensitive rehab programs" to women at the Dallas County Jail. I encourage you to visit their website:

Be sure to look at their art exhibit and watch the video showing the programing offered by this innovative group. Some great ideas here for those in ministry and aftercare!

By the way "resolana" is Spanish for warming wall, the sunny side of a building or plaza, a protected place where the warmth absorbed by the adobe walls draws people to gather together and talk.

I'm so impressed with your program. Way to go!
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mentally Disabled Woman To Be Executed

A borderline mentally retarded woman is scheduled to be executed this month in Virginia. She is the first woman in almost 100 years to be executed in the state. Theresa Lewis was convicted of hiring two men to murder her husband and stepson in 2002. She pleaded guilty to the charges.

Since her conviction, there have been questions about the extent of her involvement in the crime and whether she was the one responsible for planning the murders or whether she was the victim of manipulation by the gunmen. Theresa's current attorney stated her original defense team neglected to present evidence of her disability and drug dependence at her trial. The men who carried out the murders were given life sentences. Theresa got the death penalty.

Read more of this story at:

Please pray for Theresa, her attorney and all involved in her appeal.

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For more information on women and the US prison system visit:

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prison Rape, The Alarming Statistics

The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released a report on the incidence of inmate sexual assault in U. S. prisons and jails. Here are some of the findings:

  • In the past year, an estimated 88,500 adult prisoners were sexually abused.
  • This number represents 4.4 percent of prison inmates and 3.1 percent of jail inmates.
  • Staff to inmate sexual misconduct was higher than inmate to inmate sexual assaults.
  • Female inmates were more than twice as likely as males to report incidents of sexual abuse.

The report, Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-09 (NCJ 231169), was written by BJS statisticians Allen J. Beck and Paige M. Harrison and RTI International staff Marcus Berzofsky, Rachel Caspar, and Christopher Krebs.

View the full report at:

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Back to The Women Of Block 12: Voices From A Jail Ministry

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Blogger, Joy's Update

I am learning every day that we have to live by faith, not by feelings. I haven't been leaning on or trusting God. I have been walking in my flesh (trying to do things alone) struggling through the financial burden of G. P.S. (the bracelet). At times, it seems so hopeless. I just moved into a one bedroom apartment in July and, financially, I'm not doing so good. (Christ The Servant Church and St. Vincent dePaul are helping me with food, gas and incidentals).

I have to remember that God's word says, "He doesn't give us more than we can handle and he always makes a way out from temptation." So I am standing on his word and promises.

I struggle with wanting to go back to old behaviors by getting financial help from men (my old life of prostitution), because I am overwhelmed with G. P. S. fees, back child-support, fines and just the bills of life. Granted, I got myself into this mess with the drunk driving and I believe I should have consequences, but I wish the system was geared more to help us and not set us up for failure. Then there wouldn't be so many of us going back and doing the same old things and landing back in the same old jails and institutions. It's just a vicious cycle. Thank God for giving me the strength to stand firm and not give up.

I have successfully completed intensive outpatient treatment this past week and, in September, I will have completed over 5 years of probation. I'm still on G.P.S. until February 9, 2011, but with the help of letters from counselors and my probation officer, I am going to write the court to request a sentence reduction.

The financial burden of G.P.S. is overwhelming and I want so bad to be a self-supporting, productive person in society. I have come so far. . . I just want to move on and give back to others.

I am so grateful for the St. Vincent dePaul ministries, Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Linda Pischke, Jean DeLisle, and other 'anonymous' supporters for all their help. Your encouragement and prayers keep me going.

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Joy is an inspiration to me. Whenever she encounters disappointment, financial problems, or difficulties, she prays, sings hymns, and praises God. She is a dedicated worker with an awesome attitude. I would like to ask our readers to hold her up in prayer this week. Employment is difficult for an ex-offender. People want to judge her because of her past. Thank You.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Prisoner to Prisoner Mentoring Program

The Prison Experience Workshop Program (P.E.W.P) is a prisoner to prisoner mentoring ministry that boast an 81% success rate in reducing recidivism. Developed by prisoner Clifford Lacey, the program has been adopted by the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The P.E.W.P. program is available free to all organization who are interested in using it to reduce recidivism. Read the entire article at EWORLDWIRE:

More information about how to access the free program materials at:

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The Women Of Block 12.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Aging Prison Population

Baby boomers are aging behind bars and their health problems are creating a burden for U.S. prisons. In 2008, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported there were 76,000 prisoners age 55 and over - an increase of 76 percent since 1999.

Age 55 is considered elderly in the prison population compared to 65 - 70 for the general public. This is due to an earlier onset of age-related illnesses such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, strokes and other ailments. The stress of living in prison, life-long poverty, poor nutrition, and drug abuse are some of the contributing factors to this problem.

A further complication is the fact that many prison facilities are poorly equipped to deal with geriatric ailments and the high cost of caring for these individuals.

While some prisons have on-site, infirmaries, hospices, and clinics to serve aging and terminally ill prisoners, balancing care and security is a complex problem. Some of the most dangerous and persistent criminals were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole thirty years ago. They have aged in place and are now among the old, frail, and chronically ill. Studies in Pennsylvania and North Caroline found that prisoners over the age of 50 were more likely to be jailed for violent offenses such as sexual crimes and therefore were poor candidates for early release related to health problems.

The American Civil Liberties Union estimates the cost of caring for frail elderly inmates is three times more than the average prisoner and the cost is entirely absorbed by the state in which they are incarcerated. Inmates released to the community are funded by both state and federal money (Medicare and Medicaid).

In 2001, Corrections Compendium, a journal of the American Corrections Institute, summarized how 46 states are dealing with the problem of aging prisoners.

  • Sixteen maintain separate facilities to house older inmates.
  • Many provide medical treatment and provide 24 hour care in skilled nursing facilities.
  • Forty-one states offer early release.

According to the National Prison Hospice Association in Boulder, Colorado, many states now offer prison hospice services. Elderly inmates die without family or friends. Corrections officials and younger inmates must then assume the role of health care provider, grief counselor, and funeral director.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Drug Treatment Programs in Prison

"The FBI reports that drugs and alcohol are a factor in about 80 percent of the felony convictions for violent crimes, property crimes and drug offenses, and studies show that 60 percent of ex-convicts are unemployed one year after their release from prison," according to Ed Merriman writer for the Baker City Herald.

In an article published August 13, 2010, Drug and Alcohol Treatment Working At Powder River, Merriman highlights the success of a program offered to inmates at Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City, Oregon. Inmates who participate in the program have a second chance at turning their lives around and realizing their dreams. The inmates get intense drug and alcohol treatment along with basic work experience to prepare for life after incarceration.

The program claims 88 per cent of the graduates go back to the community, get a job, and succeed in providing for themselves and their families. Be sure to read the entire article at the above link.

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Visit: The Women Of Block 12 for more information about offenders.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

National Prisoner Reentry Conference

Milwaukee will host the 9th Annual National Prisoner Reentry Conference October 7 - 10th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The theme is Justice & Mercy, Maintaining Balance in Prisoner Reentry.
In addition to Christian Association for Prison Aftercare, sponsors include the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Prison Aftercare Network of Wisconsin.

The program is for those who work or volunteer in reentry. For more information visit: .

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For more information on prison ministry visit: TheWomenOfBlock12

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rape Statistics & Native Americans

Jail ministry has opened my eyes to the terrible statistics of violence against women. Many of these individuals have been raped and sexually abuse during their lifetime

There is an excellent article by at:

She is discussing a new law - The Tribal Law and Order Act which gives Native American Tribes "jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit violent crimes on tribal lands.

To summarize just a few of her findings:

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 70% of all rapes in the U.S. go unreported; other sources place the number as high as 84%.
  • Among rape victims in the general population, 74% report being physically battered in additional ways during the commission of the rape. For Native women, that number jumps to 90%.
  • Among the general population, 30% of rape victims report sustaining other physical injuries, in addition to the rape itself. Among Native women, that number is 50%.
  • Roughly 11% of rape victims as a whole report that their rapist used a weapon. For Native women, that number more than triples, to 34%.
This is an article worth reading!

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For more information visit

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Friday, July 23, 2010

An Evening With Wally Lamb

As promised, I'm here to tell you all about my evening with Wally Lamb. Well, actually there were about 150 of us who spent the evening with him. We gathered at the Wherehouse on Water Street in Milwaukee. Water was the word of the evening. It rained, and rained and rained until Milwaukee's deep tunnel popped it cork and literally blew the lids off the manholes. While it was raining outside the Wherehouse, it was also raining inside. It seems the roof of the beautifully remodeled 100 year plus machine shop had a few holes in it and the warm rain sprinkled down on our heads flooding the floor. But it didn't dampen our spirits. We were there to hear our favorite author Wally Lamb. We were not disappointed.

The evening was hosted by The Benedict Center, an interfaith, nonprofit criminal justice agency. This wonderful organization works with victims, offenders and the community to achieve equal justice for all individuals. Guests were warmly greeted by volunteer members and residents of the Benedict Center who mingled with the crowd and made us feel ever so welcome. As an added bonus, the program booklet included personal stories written by clients of the center.

Mr. Lamb is a warm and engaging speaker who spent time meeting personally with visitors both before and after his presentation. He told humorous stories of his experiences including what it was like to be called, at home, by Oprah Winfrey when she just wanted to tell him how much she enjoyed his first novel, She's Come Undone.

The main topic of the evening was Lamb's work with women at the York Correctional Institution in Connecticut where he has taught creative writing classes for the past 11 years. His passion for this project led to the publication of two books Couldn't Keep It To Myself and I'll Fly Away. Both are collections of stories written by his students.

Wally Lambs dedication to the women of York Correctional Institution has resulted in greater public awareness of the needs of incarcerated women and the inequality of the criminal justice system.

Thank you Mr. Lamb and The Benedict Center for a wonderful evening!

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For more information about women in prison and prison ministry visit:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Update

My apologies for not writing to you since May 14th. Every available minute has been spent on finishing The Women of Block 12. I am happy to say it will be going to the proofreaders in the next couple of weeks, then off to the printer. This has been a very exciting time. Before release, you will have the opportunity to pre-order the book at a discounted price. Also, groups and organizations will get generous discounts so that they can use the book for fund raising purposes.

Our guest blogger, Joy, is working on another installment of her story. This will be online very soon. She is doing well in her new job and new apartment....I'll let her tell you all about it.

Tomorrow, July 22, author Wally Lamb is visiting Milwaukee at the Benedict Center and due to the generosity of my friend, Jill Turcotte-Nielsen, I GET TO GO! Mr. Lamb is very famous for his novels, but I am particularly interested in two of his works Couldn't Keep It To Myself and I'll Fly Away. He teaches writing classes at a women's prison. These two works are a collection of the inmates writings. I highly recommend all of Mr. Lambs books. You can find more information at Harper Collins. I promise to memorize every word he says tomorrow night and give you a full report of his talk.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Society Has No Mercy - God Does

Guest Blogger - Joy

It feels good to be back to work. I thank God for this opportunity. There was a time, after my release from prison in April 2007 that I thought I would never get a job. My past criminal record isn't the greatest and no one seemed to want to give me a chance. I am trained as a dental assistant and I have done some factory work. I filled out so many applications, but every time they'd do a background check, I wasn't considered. I wouldn't even get an interview. If I did get an interview and I told them I was a felon, I never heard from the employer again.

So, I just worked in a local restaurant that hired me back, off and on for many years. It was only part time, and it wasn't much money, but it provided. I just kept praying God would open a door for me....And he did! The company where Linda works gave me a chance. I'm a housekeeper and I loved my job! I think they like me too. Praise God!

My next hurdle is to find an apartment. I applied for a 2 bedroom. The lady was so nice when I went to look at it. I was honest with her. She called me that night and said, I could rent from her. I was so excited, because my living situation (at the time) was so dysfunctional. I told her I would drop off the deposit the next day. She called me while I was at work and left a message. She had changed her mind. I tried to call her back to find out what I already knew - she did a background check.

I can't tell you how much it hurts to be rejected over and over because of my past. I guess, I do understand their thinking. I am a felon. They are afraid of me. It's just so hard to stay positive when society looks at us as not capable of changing. I've served my time and would like to start a new chapter in my life.

As ex-offenders, we beat ourselves up for the things we have done and the devil loves to fill our heads with lies that we are no good and don't deserve anything better. Why should we even try? So many of us go back to old ways because we can't get a break.

Today I stand on God's word. "I am a new creation in Christ. The old is gone, the new has come." I keep trudging forward because I know God is faithful. I am a testimony of what he can do.

I will not let society taboo me or allow the devil to fill my head with insecurities. I deserve to be treated like everyone else - even if others don't think so. God loves me and will get me through every trial.

Please continue to pray for ex-offenders. And pray that God will give me wisdom. I would like to start a ministry, some day, to mentor others.

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For more stories from the Women of Block 12, please visit:

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Daily decisions. We all have to make them. Nothing too difficult.

  • What should I wear to the office today?
  • Cheerios or a scrambled egg for breakfast?
  • Should I leave work early to go to an appointment?
  • Which bills to pay first?
  • What can I make for supper tonight?
On the other hand, some decisions are seemingly impossible. An ex-offender friend earns $10.00 an hour. Four dollars goes directly to her supervision on the bracelet. With the remaining $6.00 she must decide:

  • Groceries or gas?
  • Medicine or phone bill?
  • Car repair $600 (so she can get to work) or Leave an abusive partner and pay her own rent?
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Visit The Women of Block 12 at:

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

God's Grace In The Lonely Places

A recent article in Christianity Today "Asking The Beautiful Question," by Joel Van Dyke and Kris Rocke is a must read for all those interested in prison ministry. You can find the story at:

The article asks the question, "What does the gospel look like when it invades the margins of the world?" The margins they speak of are populations of imprisoned gang members in South America, prostitutes, street youth, and families in extreme poverty. The authors reveal some surprising insights into God's work in the world.

Those of us in prison and jail ministry will recognize, in these examples, how the grace of God flows in both directions when we minister to the least of these.

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Visit: The Women Of Block 12: Voices From a Jail Ministry.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

God is Faithful - Joy

In jail and prison ministry, I often hear horror stories about how hard (and sometimes impossible) it is to survive on the outside after being incarcerated. We punish offenders and they pay the price of their mistakes by going to prison. But when they come out, our society continues to punish them by making it difficult to start over and become productive citizens.

I asked our guest blogger, Joy, to share the experiences of an ex-offender returning to the community. During her recent incarceration, Joy lost her job, her apartment and her car. She asked the judge for work release.

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I was granted work release on April 14th and started back to work on April 20th. I'd like to share the struggles it took me to get that far.

I had to come up with money for the privilege of being on the bracelet (GPS) before I could start my job. I earn $10/hr. Keep in mind, the following does not include my own rent and bills I have to pay.

Here is the breakdown of what I owe to get back to work.
  • $672 ($336 every two weeks) for the GPS.
  • $40 a month supervision fee for being on probation.
  • $300 for 6 months of car insurance (required because I lost my license for 9 months for my first drunk driving ticket).
  • $839 - cost of the ticket.
  • $205 for a DMV required drug and alcohol assessment.
  • $50 to reinstate the occupational license
I understand there are consequences for my actions and driving under the influence is against the law. I am not complaining about that but I am trying to be a productive person in society and I feel like the system sets ex-offenders up for failure. I have no idea how they expect me to live. I am fortunate to have a job, but I still need to find an apartment and come up with the security deposit plus a month's rent. I see why so many ex-offenders go back to old behaviors. It's so overwhelming. I will be on the bracelet until February 2011. Paying $672 a month for the GPS doesn't give me much left for the basics such as rent, gas, and food.

But I know that God is my provider and as long as I stay in his will and serve him, he will meet my needs. I won't give up.
Thanks for your prayers.

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The Women Of Block 12: Voices From A Jail Ministry:

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guitars For Vets - Milwaukee Event

I am pleased to announce an event for a Milwaukee organization that honors veterans. Patrick Nettesheim has been a friend of our family for many years and has co-founded Guitars For Vets, a non-profit group that ministers to veterans through free music lessons and the gift of a guitar.

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On Friday, April 23, from 5:30 to 9:30 PM, Guitars For Vets (G4V) will be hosting an event at The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee to raise awareness and funds for our national expansion. I have attached a poster that will provide you with all of the vitals. Additionally, you will find information about MOTOR, the fantastic restaurant located on the premises at this address:

As you may know, I co-founded G4V with Dan Van Buskirk, a Viet Nam era Veteran, with the intention of bringing relief and healing to Vets suffering from PTSD, physical injuries and other traumas. It was almost two years ago to the day when we starting teaching Vets at Zablocki VAMC in Milwaukee how to play guitar. Since then, we have given away nearly 600 guitars and have taught over 3,600 private guitar lessons to Vets in Wisconsin, St. Louis and Texas (This has all been done by volunteers)! We recently opened chapters in Michigan, Florida and Iraq and there are requests for the G4V program from nearly fifty VAMC's and Community Vet Centers throughout the United States.

I believe that the profound impact of the G4V program can be attributed to three simple traits; Listen with sincere interest, show gratitude and do not judge. It is only after these aspects of the golden rule are applied that learning can begin. As camaraderie develops, the education process moves forward. We all have an innate desire to belong to a community that supports and gives us purpose. The music skills acquired from the six private and subsequent group lessons give the Veterans a vehicle through which to share pent-up feelings and memories that are difficult to speak of. This pays itself forward as the students then become instructors to others. When people connect on this level, community is fostered.

In many ways we are all wounded warriors. What better way to help heal ourselves and maybe even the world, than to mend the spirits of those who have given so much in our name. I hope to see you at ROCK the RUMBLE where we can not only acknowledge the sacrifices of our Troops and Veterans, we can celebrate the wonderful men and women that they are!

The light is yours,

Patrick Nettesheim
Vice President

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Visit my website at:

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

God Works In Mysterious Ways - Joy

Our guest blogger, Joy continues to share her experiences as an offender. Her first blog was posted on April 2, 2010.

God opened the door for me to go home on G.P.S. (the bracelet- which is house arrest) on March 31st, after just 2 months in jail. As I write this, I am sitting at home reflecting on my recent arrest and incarceration.

I have two 9-month consecutive sentences on my revocation of probation. I violated my probation by getting my first drunk driving ticket. Mind you, my probation would have been over September 2010. I will be spending more time than if I had a forgery or burglary case. Go figure. . . this is the probation and parole system.

Sitting in jail with 60 women in one dorm means eating, showering, sleeping and existing together for the appointed time. The women you meet, the stories you hear are sometimes overwhelming but somehow we bond and look past the predicament we're in.

This time, when I sat, I didn't so much look at my situation as I had in the past. I just leaned on and trusted God. I spent my time listening and looking at others and their needs and I found myself praying for others instead of myself. It's amazing what God will do for you when you want for someone else.

But God had work for me to do in there as He led me to minister to others. While in custody, I took the time to pray and share with others what God has done in my life. I just believed God would work out my situation and He did.

Though I am on house arrest, I seek God and His word every minute I am awake because I need to renew my mind and I have a desire to serve Him. In the meantime, I have written the judge to ask for work release. I have a job waiting. I will let you know what happens.

In my next blog, I will share how hard it is for ex-offenders to get a job. Society is not forgiving. Most offenders go back to old behaviors because they can't find work - very few employers will give us another chance. But God is in control and what he has done for me, he will do for others.

Please continue to pray for ex-offenders.

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More about women offenders at:

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mental Illness Fact Sheet

National Alliance on Mental Illness: U.S. Mental Health Statistics.

  • One in four adults - approximately 57.7 million Americans - experience a mental health disorder in a given year.
  • 2.4 million live with schizophrenia.
  • 5.7 million are a affected by bipolar disorder.
  • 14.8 million have a major depressive disorder. According to 2004 World Health Reports, this is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada in ages between 15 to 44.
  • 40 million Americans are affected by anxiety disorders - panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias.
  • 5.2 million adults have co-occurring mental helath and addiction disorders. Thirty-one percent of homeless adults reported having a combination of these conditions.
  • Fewer than 1/3 of adults and 1/2 of children with a diagnosible mental disorder receive any mental health services.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to have access to mental health services and often receive a poorer quality of care.
  • More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder.
  • Twenty-four percent of state prisoners and 21 percent of local jail prisoners have a recent history of a mental disorder.

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For more information on prisoners and mental health see:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Joy - Guest blogger

I have invited my friend, Joy to be a guest blogger on this site because she is an inspiration to so many others. Joy's story is in my upcoming book: The Women of Block 12: Voices From a Jail Ministry. I know you will be inspired by her writings.

I believe God will use you wherever you're at. . . if you let Him.
My name is Joy. I am currently serving a revocation to my probation at the House of Correction. My violation was having 5 margaritas and driving my car under the influence. I received my first drunk driving ticket. It seemed like a small thing to me considering the life I used to live (see "Joy's Story" in the upcoming book The Women of Block 12), but my violation is and was against the law and my probation. I took one day and detoured from God's will which always has consequences.

As I look back, I was backsliding months before this incident. I was not going to church on a regular basis, neglecting my devotions and time with God (a place where I get my strength), isolating and saying 'no' to God's call to ministry. In other words, I got lazy. 1 Peter 5:8 says "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." That's just what happened.

Now that I am here in jail, I see so many women, of all ages, hurting and lost. They are looking to fill a void somehow - with alcohol, drugs, men, cigarettes, gambling etc. In here, a lot of them turn to other women to feel good. As a result, there are many lesbians in prisons and jails. Coming to jail really puts my life back into perspective on how far I have come and I use that knowledge to minister to and work with women who have needs that only God can satisfy.

I tell them about Jesus and what He has done in my life. Some have no families. Some have burned their bridges with friends. In many cases everyone has given up on them. I give them the Good News that God hasn't given up and He never will!

It's easy to live for God in jail when you don't have the influences of the world. But I tell the women, "We have to put up a good fight and surrender our lives to God. He gives us instructions on how to live. We have to die to our flesh and allow God to have His way."

For some reason, I always seem to get in the way of His will for me. Thank God He loves me so much He sent Jesus to be my Savior so I could still have a relationship with Him. He knew I would never be perfect and would fall short time and time again. He still loves me and will use me - even in the midst of my own created messes. He has started a good work in me and He promises to take it to completion. I am still a work in progress.

I encourage and pray for those reading this blog to raise up and pray for the incarcerated. I hope God will put it in your heart to sponsor an ex-offender through your church or community group. When an inmate is released, they need mentoring and guidance to go in a new direction. The statistics show the majority of offenders will go back to old behaviors unless they learn something new. Please don't give up on us!

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Facts About Women & Criminal Justice

From: Institute on Women & Criminal Justice
  • The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades.
  • Two-thirds of these women are in prison for non-violent offenses.
  • Mothers are among the fastest growing prison population. Two-thirds are mothers - (77% of those were the daily caregivers for their children, 11% report their children are in foster care).
Women of color are disproportionately represented in prison.
  • 93 out of every 100,000 white women
  • 349 out of 100,000 black women
  • 147 out of 100,000 Hispanic women
Fifty-one percent of sentenced women were between the ages of 30-44

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Learn more about women in prison:

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Seeing Christ In The Eyes of Prisoners

This is an article I wrote about our former jail chaplain.

"Papa Joe" Wanner served as jail chaplain at our county jail for more than 12 years. He was loved by many and served as an inspiration to prisoners, ministry members and jail staff. This article appeared in the Catholic Herald - October 10, 2002.

It is 9 p.m. at the county jail and visiting hours are over. A single voice echoes through the deserted hallways. Joe Wanner is singing hymns.

It has been a tiring day for the 72-year-old chaplain. He struggles to propel himself through the long corridors in a wheelchair too small for his six-foot frame. Wanner took a spill in 1993 and tore a ligament in his knee cap. The injury has slowed him down a bit, but Wanner has the spirit and enthusiasm of a much younger man.

Until recently, Wanner spent 90 hours a months serving the incarcerated. In addition to visits to the jail, conducting services and sharing his religious beliefs, he spends time at home writing letters to judges on behalf of the inmates, making housing arrangements for soon-to-be-released prisoners, and "other background work that needs to be done."

But it is the visits with inmates that he most enjoys. Most of the time he just listens. Inmates gather around him begging for attention. Papa Joe, as some prisoners affectionately call him, prays with Christians, Muslims and Jews. "We have to be sensitive to other religious," he said. "We have to recognize and honor them."

Leading prisoners to God. Wanner's mission is to lead prisoners to a relationship with their God. His nickname, Papa Joe, is a fitting title for a jail chaplain and former priest. Wanner was ordained to the priesthood in 1957. He requested and received permission from the church to leave the priesthood in 1972.

Wanner will tell you that his passion for prison ministry began with a life-changing experience. It happened in 1963 when he was a young priest at St. Thomas Church in Milwaukee.

"I was driving down North Avenue," he said. "At about 32nd Street I looked out of my window and there to my left was a bum. He was lying on the ground, sick and unconscious. He was unshaved and poorly dressed. Liquid was flowing from his mouth onto the sidewalk."

Wanner's first impulse was to take care of man, an example he learned from his dad. But then he thought about his nice clean suit and the fact that he would be late for his doctor's appointment.

"I figured somebody would be along soon to take care of the old timer so I didn't stop," he said. "I really think God was there at that moment. And oh, did he let me have it! I felt terrible. Terrible. By then I was several blocks away."

The call to action continues. The guilt he experienced affected his entire life. "From then on I didn't want God pointing a finger at me anymore," Wanner said. "I realized it was my job to care for somebody who was in a mess, even if they made the mess themselves. It was kind of a call to action. It was a strange, strong moment in my life."

For many years, Wanner continued in his work with the church helping individuals and families in need, sometimes reaching out to people on the street. He came to have a fascination with folks who had ruined their lives in a criminal way. "When you see those fellas up there at the jail, you might say, 'They made their own mess, let them lie in it.' But no," he said shaking his head, "that's your brother."

Even though he left the priesthood to marry, Wanner's call to serve the least of his brothers did not stop. "Despite the fact that I left the priesthood, I had made a promise to Christ to serve his people," he explained. "We believe that once you are ordained, that's your life, for eternity. But I could not exercise that (ministerial role) any longer. I looked up from the wreckage and said, 'At least I can help people.'"

A public open house for the Waukesha Jail led Wanner to volunteer his services. In 1992, at the suggestion of the jail captain, he agreed to become the chaplain. "It was what I loved doing (serving Christ). I couldn't do it the old way so here was a new way."

Prisoners' lives are tragic. For Wanner, the hardest part of the job is "the sheer tragedy of many have to leave their spouse, their children, their parents. They lose their job. They live in disgrace. I can never get used to it, and yet, sometimes, you get such a surprise. Some (prisoners) finally decide to live a life that is worthwhile. I have no numbers, but many people have told me that it was a turning point in their life when we worked together on their soul."

"When I leave the jail at night," Wanner said, "I sing all my favorite melodies. The halls here are long and empty. The ceilings are hard and the acoustics poor. It doesn't sound great, but I sing anyway." Then he laughed, "They probably think I'm a nut."

Papa Joe has found great peace and joy in his work. "It's been a pattern of my life," he said, "that the Lord always saves the best for last. Other things were good. Other people were great. This is just the happiest time in my life. This tops it!"

In Memory Of: Joe Wanner 1930 - 2008

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For excerpts of my upcoming book "The Women of Block 12, visit:

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Substance Abuse and Prisoners

A recent study by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reveals that 85% of the U.S. prison population has significant drug and alcohol issues. Of the 2.3 million inmates in our nation's prisons and jail, 1.5 meet the medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction. Another 458,000 had histories of substance abuse (i.e. were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of their crime, committed their offense to get money to buy drugs, or were incarcerated for an alcohol or drug law violation). According to the report, alcohol and other drugs were factors in all crimes in the year 2006.

The study also reported that only 11 percent of all inmates with substance abuse and addiction disorders receive any treatment during their incarceration. The findings indicated that if all inmates who needed treatment and aftercare received such services, and only 10 percent of them remained substance and crime free and employed, the nation would break even in one year.

For each inmate who remains sober, employed and crime free, the U.S. would get an economic benefit of $90,953.

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More information at: http:


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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Recommended Reading

I just finished reading "Cain's Redemption: A Story Of Hope and Transformation in America's Bloodiest Prison" by Dennis Shere.

In his book, Shere tells about the incredible changes that have occurred at Angola Prison in Louisiana, a former 18,000 acre plantation that now is home to over 5,000 men, most of whom are serving life sentences. The prison is the largest maximum security prison in the U.S. There are over 1800 staff members who answer to a warden named Burl Cain.

Cain was raised in a Christian home and when he accepted his first job as a warden in another correctional facility his mother told him, “I raised you right and... you’ve got to be accountable to God. If those men have a chance to know Jesus, you are in control of their lives and you had better not fail!”

In 1995, Cain arrived at Angola, the bloodiest prison in America. He asked the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to open an extension seminary within the prison to serve the Christian inmates. Since that time, over 150 inmates have earned degrees in Ministry. Those individuals serve as pastors to inmates who attend churches on the prison grounds.

Cain believes that prisoners are human beings who deserve to know Jesus as their Savior. The combination of tough leadership skills and Cain's commitment to the Lord effected changes at Angola that are nothing short of miraculous. Under Warden Cain's supervision, Angola has become a peaceful prison where inmates live their lives with purpose working in various industries throughout the grounds. Cain believes God has led him every step of the way and he feels it's time for a revival in America's prison system.

Dennis Shere has done an excellent job of describing the philosophy of Burl Cain and how his love for the imprisoned has rehabilitated some of America's most violent offenders. An emotional and moving story that you won't soon forget.

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Please visit my website:

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Ohio's Prison Industries

The Ohio State Prison System supports programs that help prisoners train for a variety of jobs. Institutions across the state make American Flags, toilet paper, eyeglasses,and dentures. They also raise cattle and process the beef for the prison system saving the state $3.3 million a year.

According to an article in The Columbus Dispatch, inmates earn from $.47 and hour to $1.27 while learning job skills that will help them succeed once they are released. Recidivism rates for inmates who work in the prison industries is only 18 percent compared to the state average of 38 percent.

Read the entire article at:

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Visit my website at:

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Incarceration of the Mentally Ill.

In 1837, social reformer Dorothea Dix recognized that mentally ill individuals should not be imprisoned but cared for in public institutions. During her lifetime, she led a campaign to remove mentally ill people from U.S. prisons and successfully helped to establish mental hospitals throughout the United States and Europe.

In the 1960s, there was a trend to move patients out of those mental hospitals and back into the community. But the vision of replacing mental hospitals with community-based treatment never happened.

A lack of funding along with poorly organized community health services makes it difficult for people with mental illness to get help. As a result, many are homeless, poor, and struggling with substance abuse or behavior problems. These difficulties often lead to criminal behaviors which result in incarceration.

Currently there are three times more mentally ill individuals in U.S. prisons and jails than in mental hospitals. These inmates suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and psychotic disorders and our justice system is ill-equipped to care for them.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One in 100

One in 100. That's the number of Americans who were behind bars in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics, a staggering 2.3 million. (This number does not include juvenile offenders).

That same year, the total number of people under the umbrella of the U.S. correctional system (locked up, on probation or on parole) was 7.3 million. That is one in every 31 adults.

According to the International Center for Prison Statistics, the U.S. leads the world in incarceration of its people:

U.S. 756 out of every 100,000
Russia 629 out of every 100,000
China 119 out of every 100,000

These are shameful statistics that unfairly target minorities and the mentally ill. According to research by The Sentencing Project, 1 out of 8 black males ages 25-29 is currently locked up in the United States. And, some figures estimate that 300,000 U.S. prisoners are mentally ill.

Our costly "Get Tough On Crime" policies have not reduced the rate of recidivism or made our cities safer. Americans need to look at alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.

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Coming Soon. The Women Of Block 12: Voices From A Jail Ministry

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Proposition 36

In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 36 (The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act), a law aimed at providing outpatient treatment to first and second time, non-violent drug offenders.

Since 2001, California reports a reduction in prison populations from 27 per cent to 21 percent. Money is now being diverted to outpatient treatment instead of prison at a savings to taxpayers.

Proposition 36 was designed to preserve jail and prison cells for violent and serious offenders, improve public safety by reducing drug related crime and to improve public health by reducing drug abuse through proven and effective methods.

The program is not without problems and criticism. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is critical of Proposition 36 because many in the program fail to complete treatment. He is attempting to initiate reforms in this area.

A UCLA study released in April 2006 showed Proposition 36 is saving taxpayers $2.50 for every $1 invested. For a complete report by UCLA see:

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I invite you to visit:

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Will You Pray For Me?

Sometimes I take a small spiral notebook to the jail and pass it around the table. I tell the women they can write down their prayer requests and I will pray for them during the coming week. Each woman uses a page for her desired prayers, then turns the page over and passes the book on. They are very respectful of each other's privacy and no one sneaks a peek at another person's page.

One by one the pages are filled with the most heart-breaking stories.
"Pray for my mom who is getting chemotherapy."
"Please take care of my children while I'm away."
"Pray that the judge will be fair when I go to trial."
"Let there be peace in Block 12."
"Pray that my boyfriend doesn't give away all my possessions."
"My teenage daughter ran away. Pray she will come home."
"My son is having trouble in school and I'm not there to help him."
"Pray that my children will not forget me."
"I'm 60 years old. I'm afraid I will die in prison."

Those of us in prison and jail ministry often feel powerless because we can't change the circumstances of the people we serve. Corrie ten Boom once said, "A man is powerful on his knees."

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More about the women of Block 12 at:

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