YPM’s mission is to minister to both inmates and returning citizens; YPM’s vision is to minister to inmates, returning citizens, and their families. While YPM’s ministry to inmates is strong and growing, our ministry to returning citizens and their families is in need of development.
In previous years, several Yokefellow Centers existed that assisted returning citizens in their transition into society. Today, only one Yokefellow Center remains and they offer limited accomodations for out-of-town family members visiting local prisons and jails.
Some level of aftercare support such as referrals, transportation, clothing, and financial assistance is provided by several Area Councils. But few, if any, Yokefellows small group meetings are offered for returning citizens. Our goal is to develop weekly small groups for returning citizens and their families in all the areas served by our Area Councils. Check our Area Council listings to see what support is offered in their area.
Aftercare Small Groups
These meetings allow the released inmate or returning citizen to continue the fellowship that began in prison and give him/her a support group that helps in the adjustment of being in the community once again. The returning citizen can bring family members to these meetings to help with his/her support and with the encouragement needed for adjustment. A YPM Aftercare Coordinator would arrange for rides to meetings for the ex-inmate, recruits volunteers, arranges study courses and provides for other areas of concern or need that may lead to a complete re-entry service and assistance ministry. A note of caution is warranted here. Some Parole Boards have restrictions on contact an returning citizen may have with other returning citizens. Accordingly, checking with the returning citizen’s parole or probation officer before the returning citizen attends a meeting is strongly recommended so as to not cause the returning citizen to violate probation and be sent back to prison.
Some Guidelines for Returning Citizens Meetings
- Whenever possible or practical a meeting place should be established within an area where travel distances for those who are expected to attend are not too great.
- Transportation may need to be provided for those who need it. This may be especially important for the success of meetings which also serve as support groups.
- Emphasis should be placed on the meeting as a place for Christian fellowship in which released prisoners can help one another.
- It should be remembered that the purpose of this meeting is to provide support, guidance, encouragement and growth opportunities to released prisoners for living the Christian way of life. The spiritual disciplines of Yokefellowship should be especially emphasized for those recently released and not used to having so much freedom.
- Meetings should be monitored to ensure that during the discussions promises, that may be difficult to deliver or even act on, are not made, implied or perceived. This may often be harder to do than it sounds.
- Early on, those without a Church relationship should be encouraged to find a local fellowship of Christians and encouraged to worship, study, and service within the Church.
- Common obstacles and challenges facing the typical returning citizen should be worked into the sessions fairly often while still maintaining as much of the standard format as practical. It may be helpful to invite successful returning citizens and representatives from social services, job service agencies, parole and probation, local companies, community churches, etc. to serve as guest discussion leaders or as discussion participants.
- Volunteers should be watchful for ministry opportunities to provide similar meetings for parents, spouses or children (especially teenagers) from families with someone incarcerated or released from prison. There are often local ministries or organizations that already work with adults or children from troubled or disadvantaged families that can lend assistance in setting up and running these groups.