Several local prison inmates recently participated in two four-day religious seminars designed to help rebuild their lives. Held at the Utah State Prison, the meetings were among the hundreds sponsored annually by the national Prison Fellowship Ministries.
In 1987, 25,423 inmates participated in 508 such seminars. These meetings feature worship, small-group interaction and topical Bible study focusing on the stresses of prison life.The program teaches inmates how to change their values and choose alternatives that can help them return to the community as productive citizens.
The local seminars - one for women inmates and the other for male prisoners 25 years and younger - were held July 18-21. The Rev. Anthony Williams of San Jose, Calif., was instructor. He was assisted by the Rev. Willie Dunn of Taylorsville.
The key to the PFM's success is an army of volunteers. Last year, about 6,000 volunteers from local churches participated nationally in the seminars. They often followed up after the seminars by returning to lead weekly Bible studies.
PFM has also implemented a pen-pal program in which prisoners have been matched with people outside the prison. The resulting correspondence offers encouragement and friendship to inmates, many of whom have been rejected by family members and friends.
PFM Chairman Charles W. Colson said, "These long-term relationships can mean the difference between an released prisoner who returns to the streets to commit another crime and one who has a friend to turn to in order to make new choices."
Another facet of PFM is the Angel Tree Program. Thanks to volunteers, 56,039 children of incarcerated men and women received gifts last year.
The Angel Tree Program is active in Utah. Last year, 87 Utah children received significant gifts. A number of inmates at the Utah State Prison who have children living outside the state also applied for and participated in the program.
Area director Harley Brueck oversees the PFM program in three Utah, Idaho and Montana from his field office in Boise, Idaho.
For more information, write to: Prison Fellowship Ministries, P.O. Box 1080, Boise, ID 83701, or call (208) 342-1417.