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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