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Prison Ministry

 

SOME INTERESTING FACTS:

  • Arizona is home to 3 federal prisons and 18 state prisons.
  • Maricopa County has 8 jails, more than any other county in Arizona.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are 28,000 prison inmates    in Arizona—an increase of 52% over the past 10 years; and this figure is expected   to double in 10 years.
  • The state of Arizona will spend $817 million for corrections in 2007, and estimates that this amount will increase to $3 billion in 10 years.
  • 42% of those released are reincarcerated within 3 years.
  • Incarcerations of women over the past 6 years have increased by 60%, twice the rate as for men.
  • 60% of persons incarcerated in Arizona came from Phoenix and Mesa.

WHAT IS OUR CONFERENCE DOING TO HELP THESE PEOPLE?

Members in the Arizona Conference have taken a multifaceted approach to the tremendous challenge of ministering to Arizona’s prison population. These methods include:

  • Weekly and/or monthly Adventist and non-denominational church services.
  • Pastoral visits and “one-on-one” member visits.
  • A writing ministry, sending letters of encouragement to inmates.
  • A Bible school that offers several different courses and new, free Bibles to those who request them.
  • A “cell-side” ministry where prison ministry volunteers visit inmates at their cell door offering study material and spiritual help.
  • Two “half-way” homes for released prisoners, with locations in Phoenix and Tucson.
  • Ministry to families with incarcerated family members.

There are five Seventh-day Adventist prison ministry organizations in Arizona.  These include: Three Angels Prison Ministry, Eterna Roca Prison Ministries (Spanish), By Beholding We Become (Kingman), and two church-based ministries in Tucson and Yuma. In addition, we have supplied cases of Bibles to local jails at the request of chaplains.

As inmates become Seventh-day Adventists, they often request “diet letters” to provide them the opportunity to eat a vegetarian diet. This ministry results in about 75 prison baptisms each year and many more professions of faith.

While there are about 60 persons involved in active prison ministry at this time, the need for more has far exceeded our ability to supply volunteers for Adventist and non-denominational worship services in the Maricopa County Jail system. Recently a chaplain told me that he desperately needed 12 more services per floor at the Fourth Avenue Jail each weekend! If we do not immediately fill these needs, other churches will and this will be our loss.

     Bob Parrish, Director

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