One Parish One Prisoner
(A New Underground Railroad)
Michelle Alexander, in The New Jim Crow: Colorblindness In An Age of Mass Incarceration, calls for "a new underground railroad." Roughly 7,000 men and women are released from prison into our communities every year. Most remain in the legal underground and go back to prison, disenfranchised and dead to society.
Like the mass movement before the collapse of slavery in the South, Alexander says we need a new movement of homes, churches, informal networks within communities to embrace and route people out of captivity today.
We are in the middle of a new organizing initiative in the Northwest that is answering that call.
It started as an idea: "one parish, one prisoner." We learned there are roughly the same amount of prisoners in Washington State as there are churches. What if, instead of starting a massive, expensive agency, we helped each church build relationship and come around just one person leaving prison? It would empty the prison system. It would change every church. It would be mass resurrection.
It would be a movement of mutual transformation.
We are just getting started.
Underground Ministries is facilitating a pilot partnership with the WA Department of Correction (DOC), the Seattle Archdiocese, the Northwest United Methodist Church Conference, and the Northwest Coast Presbytery, to experiment with helping church communities build relationships with incarcerated individuals releasing to their communities.
We are inviting interested churches to:
1. Invite Neaners, Chris, and others to speak in your congregation about this relational work of redemption
2. Join as financial partners with Underground Ministries
4. Eventually have enough passionate stakeholders (along with the pastor or leadership) to take the Underground Railroad church orientation series--and prepare to begin writing letters and relationship with a prisoner coming home to your community within a few years