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A man enjoys a rare moment of quiet inside the chapel at Lebanon Correctional Institution

Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t see your question here, please fill out a contact form and we will provide an answer.

Can anyone volunteer to work in a prison or jail?

Why spend time with incarcerated people at all?

What is the difference between a jail and a prison?

What are the religious rights of those who are incarcerated?

Can both men and women volunteer in the prisons?

Isn’t prison dangerous?

Can you get a message or package to my friend while he’s incarcerated?

How can I help the mission if I don’t want to go inside a prison?

Will you talk some sense into my (brother/sister/son/daughter/friend/wife/husband)?

Why don’t you use the words “inmate” or “offender” or “prisoner” on your website?

The Catholic women at Dayton Correctional thank St. Veronica students for Valentines

The Catholic women at Dayton Correctional thank St. Veronica students for Valentines

1. Can anyone volunteer to work in prison or jail?
Not exactly. We are always grateful for the interest because the harvest is great and the laborers are few. However, there are some restrictions. Volunteers must be at least 18 and be able to pass a security background check. Anyone who has formerly been incarcerated (jail or prison) would only be considered—because of laws, not judgment—on a case-by-case basis. There are restrictions for those who have family or close friends incarcerated in the prisons we serve and, sometimes, incarceration ministry just flat-out isn’t a fit for someone.

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2. Why spend time with incarcerated people at all?
We get this one a lot. For our comprehensive answer, visit our Mission page. The short answer is: We agree that it’s the right thing to do. And if the tables were turned, we’d be awfully grateful to see us.

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3. What is the difference between a jail and a prison?
While many people use the terms ‘jail’ and ‘prison’ interchangeably, they are very different facilities that serve different purposes. Jails are county facilities, operated by the Sheriff. Prisons are state or federal institutions. Jails are the first place of incarceration when someone is arrested and some people remain in jail while their legal situation is being resolved. Once adjudicated (and if the sentence is longer than a couple years, generally) people move from the jail to the prison to finish their time.

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4. What are the religious rights of those who are incarcerated?
This varies from state to state and even facility to facility, based on security and circumstance. Most succinctly, incarcerated men and women are permitted to practice the tenets of the religious faith of their choosing, provided their belief (or desire) is “sincerely held.” Attendance at any religious worship service or study group is always voluntary.

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5. Can both men and women volunteer in the prisons?
Yes! There are numerous advantages to both same-gender ministry and opposite-gender ministry. While we try to balance our teams with both genders, people are drawn to incarceration ministry for different reasons and with varying backgrounds and histories. Everyone’s story has a place and we believe that no one ends up on our team by accident.

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6. Isn’t prison dangerous?
It can be. But, we take steps to train our volunteers and ensure that no one is separated from the team or left in a position that is unwise. In partnership with the security team at each facility, we can say that we have a 100% safety record and no team member has ever been in a situation that warranted security concern.

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7. Can you get a message or package to my friend while he’s incarcerated?
Sorry, no. We are not permitted to take anything in or out for someone incarcerated. But, if you would like to learn more about the ways we spend time with your incarcerated loved one, fill out our Contact Form and we will give you a call.

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8. How can I help the mission if I don’t want to go inside a prison?
We understand that prison isn’t for everyone. If you’d still like to be part of our team, consider donating financially or praying for our team. To donate, click here. To submit a prayer, click here.

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9. Will you talk some sense into my (brother/sister/son/daughter/friend/wife/husband)?
We get it. But here’s the thing: if we are so fortunate to encounter your (brother/sister/son/daughter/friend/wife/husband) in our classes or worship services, our primary modus operandi is to meet people where they are. In other words, if they’re up for a discussion that leads somewhere fruitful, so are we. If they aren’t, we’re pretty patient people. A wise colleague once said, “The last thing we want to be is the wrong person at the right time.”

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10. Why don’t you use the words “inmate” or “offender” or “prisoner” on your website?
Thanks for noticing. We work hard not to put labels on each other, even though society and the system are comfortable with doing that. We start with PEOPLE and then add their CIRCUMSTANCE. We are fortunate to work with men and women who happen to be incarcerated. Men and women who have committed crimes. Men and women who are working on their faith. Even when men and women in our group refer to themselves and each other as “inmate” or “offender” (or worse!) we pass on the practice.

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