General information: The Call; The Need; Prison versus Jail; How to Begin; Things to Consider; Location of NJ Prisons; Committee Members
Ideas for Ministering to the Imprisoned
A Night Prayer Service
The Lord’s Prayer in Spanish
Reflections from our Prison Ministers
Download a one-page, double-sided brochure
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'” 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
There are 13 state prisons in all of New Jersey. Twelve of these are within the Diocese of New Jersey. And in today’s real number of people: According to U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Judicial Statistics, [http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pim08st.pdf] as of June 30, 2008 there were 1,610,584 people “under the jurisdiction of state or federal prisons”. That means approximately 1 in every 200 people in this country are in a state or federal prison.
Prison Versus Jail
Prisons and jails are different confinement facilities, each having their unique challenges and opportunities, both for the imprisoned as well as those wishing to minister to the imprisoned. Generally speaking, prisons are large state or federal facilities. All people confined there have been convicted of a crime and are serving sentences greater than one year. Jails, on the other hand, are small county or city facilities, the confined may be waiting a “speedy trial” or have been convicted of a crime with a sentence of less than one year.
How to Begin your Ministry to the Imprisoned
The objective of the diocesan-wide ministry to the imprisoned initiative is to educate and facilitate, thereby enabling clergy and laity to minister to those in the prisons and jails of New Jersey. You do not need permission, you need only pray and follow where the spirit leads. We hope these resources will aid you as you begin your calling.
Things to Consider as You Begin a Ministry to the Imprisoned
Ministry to the imprisoned is a ministry of presence, an active, engaged, honest, real-you Presence. The imprisoned you meet are extremely thankful that you took time out of your day to visit with them. You must be engaging, non-judgmental, flexible, honest, open to new ideas and willing to change if things are not working out the way you thought they would. Do not preach, but give choices whenever possible no matter how small, and listen attentively to what the participants say. You must find a balance where everyone is on equal footing. This is not “us” against “them” proposition; it is a WE endeavor.
You may consider asking an open-ended, “Icebreaker” question before you begin so that each person has an opportunity to voice their thoughts. Example: What brought you joy this last week?
Begin your time together in prayer. You may begin this process and even bring an already prepared prayer if you wish. Eventually let the men or women lead everyone in prayer to begin your visit. You need to engage everyone as much as possible; it will heighten your attendance. People will want to come back if they feel they are being heard.
When you initially introduce yourself to the participants, please remember to include a statement of faith. The Nicean Creed would be a perfect choice as a statement of faith. You could even bring in an enlarged photocopy of the Creed so that everyone can read it. You must be patient and do not get discouraged with the insanity and sometimes arbitrary and capricious decrees of the correctional officers and prison/jail administration at the institution.
Know and obey the laws of the institution to the best of your ability. You never want to jeopardize the ministry or the welfare of the people you visit. Most often the correctional officers do not think that the imprisoned deserve to have any comforts especially a visitor from the outside talking about faith, etc.
You must realize that you will be taken advantage of by the imprisoned. That is why it is important to know the rules. By your presence, you bring HOPE to the men and women you visit in prison and jail.
Location of New Jersey State Prisons
The location of state prisons comes from the NJ Dept. of Corrections. Please see http://www.state.nj.us/corrections/for the source of the information.
1. Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center
2. A. C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility
3. Bayside State Prison
4. Central Reception and Assignment Facility
5. East Jersey State Prison
6. E. Mahan Correctional Facility for Women
7. Garden State Youth Correctional Facility
8. Mid-State Correctional Facility Annex
9. Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility
10. New Jersey State Prison
11. Northern State Prison
12. Southern State Correctional Facility
13. South Woods State Prison
Ministry for the Imprisoned
Please contact Mr. Daniel E. Somers, committee co-chairs for additional information or to get involved.