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January 16, 2016

Prison Ministry: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

By Dan Bucalos

This past year has brought attention to many important social justice issues, particularly as they relate to prison and jail ministry. The NBA Prison and Jail Ministry Affinity Group has been right at the center of many of these issues, not only lifting them up before the wider church, but also inspiring those in our communities of faith to action. Our work is about inspiration, advocacy, and education. And there is much work yet to be done. As we begin the new year, I thought I would highlight some of our accomplishments in 2015 to remind us of the important work we are about. (Rev. Bucalos meets with Senator Rand Paul in November 2015).

Inspiration

To inspire, we published blogs on a variety of topics throughout the year. These blogs not only raise important issues, like the use of prolonged solitary confinement and mass incarceration, but also highlight ongoing ministries that are making a difference in our world. Ministries like Prison Congregations of America, Prison Visitation and Support, and penpal ministries all contribute to making the world a better place. This year, we began inviting guest bloggers to share the incredible work they are doing, and we hope to offer this forum for others in the years to come.

Advocacy

Our advocacy work took form in two ways. We were present at Ecumenical Advocacy Days in April 2015, along with 1,000 others considering the effects of mass incarceration and the moral imperative that demands criminal justice reform. As part of that four-day conference, we joined with the Disciples Center for Public Witness to co- sponsor a gathering and panel discussion that brought together strong leaders from across the country who are at the heart of this important work. Later in the year, I was invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in a panel of faith-based leaders sponsored by The Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition. At two sessions, we spoke of the need for criminal justice reform to Congressional staffers. During my time there, I was able to speak privately with staff members of the senators and congressperson from my home state of Kentucky.

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