USA (MNN) — What would you guess is the difference in length between jail time and a prison sentence? The average prisoner in the United States is sentenced to a little over 12 years in prison. But a stay for someone in jail typically lasts just 21 days.
Crossroads Prison Ministries connects men and women in prison with Christian mentors through mail-in Bible studies. It can take several weeks for just one Bible study letter to go between the Crossroads student and the mentor. So what about those serving shorter stints behind jail bars?
John Byrne, the Director of Student Programming with Crossroads says, “Typically, for a Crossroads lesson, it takes four to six weeks [for] turnaround. So a student gets a lesson booklet from us, they do the work, they send it back to us at Crossroads, [and] it goes to a volunteer who reviews it and sends it to a mentor. The mentor then reviews the lesson, writes some comments, and then writes a letter to the student.
“The jail population is very transient. Typically, they don’t have enough time to get very far into the Crossroads coursework because they’re there for such a short amount of time.”
Around one-third of Crossroads’ student enrollment comes from men and women serving jail time. Most of them are out of jail before they can finish a Crossroads course.
That is why Crossroads recently developed a new jail curriculum. For someone in jail, it should only take about a week to complete this new coursework, and it serves as an introduction to the ministry. From there, if they still have more jail time to serve — or if they’ve received a longer sentence in prison — they can begin another Crossroads course.
Reaching this demographic is critical. Byrne says the time someone spends in jail is often a spiritual wake-up call.
“For some, it’s the first time they haven’t been drunk or high for several days in a row, especially if they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol. So now they have a block of time…to sober up, to reconsider their life [and] to weigh out what they’ve lost or what they could lose going to prison.”
“It’s kind of a big shock. For a lot of people, jail becomes that place of rock bottom. ‘How did I get here? I’m looking around, I’m locked up, I can’t go home. How did I get myself in this spot?’ So in jail, it’s very fertile ground for evangelism…. A lot of people in jail make a commitment to follow Jesus.”
Please pray for men and women in jail to sense their need for a Savior in Jesus Christ! Ask God to make Himself known in mighty ways, renewing hearts and minds for the Kingdom.
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor with Crossroads, click here!
“It’s like anything else, any loss, there’s a grieving that takes place. ‘I lost my freedom. I may have lost my family.’ So to be able to encourage somebody in that situation, it’s like giving them a glass of spiritual ice water in their situation.”
Also, if you can read and write in Spanish, Crossroads has a specific need for more Spanish-speaking mentors. Byrne says, “We really would like to have more Spanish-speaking students, but we don’t have enough mentors to go through all those lessons from our Spanish-speaking students.”
Header photo courtesy of Ye Jinghan via Unsplash.