By / Oct 14

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) upholds the belief that all men and women are created in the image of God and have the right to fair and just treatment under the law. God has established government as a legitimate authority to ensure justice for its citizens (Rom. 13:1). We believe true justice executed by the government not only punishes wrongdoers but also upholds the dignity (Gen. 1:26-27) of both parties and provides a path toward reconciliation for the offender. The ERLC is committed to advocating for policy changes that strengthen families and reintegrate past offenders to their communities.

Studies demonstrate that rehabilitation certificates improve housing and employment outcomes for the formerly incarcerated.1Jennifer Doleac, Strategies to Productively Reincorporate the Formerly-Incarcerated into Communities: A Review of the Literature, IZA Institute for Study of Labor Economics (June 2018),  The Recognizing Education, Employment, New skills, and Treatment to Enable Reintegration Act of 2019, or the RE-ENTER Act, allows federal offenders to request a federal certificate of rehabilitation. These certificates would assist offenders with obtaining occupational licensing, housing, and employment while protecting employers who hire these offenders. This is a practical way to extend a second chance to people earnestly looking to become a productive member of their community.

The RE-ENTER Act is an important step in increasing successful reentry for the formerly incarcerated. The RE-ENTER Act both assists former offenders when returning to their communities and incentivizes those currently incarcerated to participate in rehabilitation programs. These programs set inmates up for successful reentry by providing opportunities for education and job training while completing their sentences; affording them positive actions to take during their imprisonment.

The SBC’s resolution on “America’s Growing Prison Population” affirms policy proposals that assist past offenders with “reintegration into society, including transitional housing, vocational and drug rehabilitation, and family support.” This resolution is a reflection of Southern Baptist’s long tradition of caring for those in prison, or who are otherwise in need (Matt. 25:36). The RE-ENTER Act is consistent with Southern Baptists’ strongly held belief in the twin virtues of justice and redemption. 

The ERLC strongly supports the bipartisan RE-ENTER Act, and urges Congress to swiftly pass this bill. The RE-ENTER act provides much needed support for those reintegrating back into their communities. Congress should continue its efforts to pursue a more just criminal justice system by passing the RE-ENTER Act.

  • 1
    Jennifer Doleac, Strategies to Productively Reincorporate the Formerly-Incarcerated into Communities: A Review of the Literature, IZA Institute for Study of Labor Economics (June 2018), 
By / Jul 6

It’s been dozens of days since Kerry Gant has seen her husband’s face. He’s quarantined in prison because his cell block is a COVID-19 hot spot.

“When you’re quarantining in prison,” Kerry said during a recent webinar with Prison Fellowship®, “it isn’t like quarantining in your house. It’s not like you . . . have access to all the luxuries of our nation. When you are quarantining in prison, that means lockdown. That means you’re in your cell for 23 hours a day.” 

That’s what life was like for her husband for a 21-day stretch inside his 6-by-9 cell. 

Isolated and anxious

COVID-19 spreads so fast behind bars because social distancing is next to impossible. There is rarely any personal space in prison. 

Kerry’s husband is just one of thousands of prisoners in this country that have been affected by the current pandemic. To date, 57,017 positive COVID-19 cases and 601 deaths among men and women living and working in prison have been reported.

A friend of Kerry’s husband who is incarcerated at the same facility recently got sick and presented a fever. Kerry’s husband recommended he contact an officer and report his symptoms. “Guys are hesitant to report that they have [symptoms] because . . . in some cases, quarantine means lockdown, and isolation means solitary [confinement],” Kerry says. “And then you are isolated and cut off from your family, and that’s the last thing that any person in prison wants.”

Her husband’s friend did report his illness and was later tested for COVID-19. He tested negative, but her husband didn’t hear anything for three days. During that time—and with all but one hour of his days spent in isolation—Kerry’s husband got so anxious that he had an anxiety attack. “He stayed up all night that night and wrote his last will and testament in case he didn’t make it,” Kerry recalls. 

A call to prayer

When prisoners are in lockdown, not much can be done for them by people on the outside. But there are some ways incarcerated men and women can stay in touch with their loved ones. 

Prison Fellowship is partnering with Flikshop and Stand Together to provide free messages and photos to hundreds of incarcerated men from members of their friends and family this summer. The messages of love and support will be sent on postcards, via U.S. mail. Flikshop has made it possible to instantly share selfies and special moments with any incarcerated person.  

Kerry says its hard to stay connected to her husband these days. “We find ways to connect via email, and we’re thankful for that.” (Some prisoners have limited access to secure email without internet.) “We read books together and do devotionals together,” Kerry added. “But ultimately, our phone calls are limited.”

What can’t be limited is prayer. God calls his people to remember the prisoner, and while we can’t be there in person for them right now, we can intercede for them. And we should. 

To help you pray more specifically for men and women in prison, check out our regularly updated map of how COVID-19 is impacting prisons in each state and our resource showing how many and through what mechanisms people have been released as a result of the pandemic. We also put together this guide for how you can pray for prisoners, prison staff, and their families during this crisis.

How you can remember the prisoner

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that the Body of Christ come together to care for those affected by crime and incarceration. That’s why Prison Fellowship has created these additional resources and action steps for you to prayerfully consider:

  • Use Prison Fellowship’s simple online tool to contact your federal and state lawmakers and request that they allocate funding to meet pressing needs within correctional facilities and limit the use of incarceration in certain circumstances.

Outrageous Justice® is Prison Fellowship’s free small-group study that explores the criminal justice system through a biblical lens, current events, and personal stories. While many places of worship are closed, this could be an excellent opportunity to lead or participate in an online exploration of God’s heart for justice and ways to pursue hope and restoration in our communities. Click here to download your free copy today. If you’d be interested in joining an online small group hosted by Prison Fellowship staff, you can find more information and register here.

By / Apr 6

Prison Fellowship® has been serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families for more than 40 years, with the vision of seeing all those affected by crime and incarceration restored to God, to their families, and to their communities. While the current public health situation will temporarily affect some of Prison Fellowship’s programs, their commitment to that vision is unwavering.   

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that the body of Christ comes together to care for those affected by crime and incarceration amid these uncertain times. That’s why Prison Fellowship has created the following resources and action steps for you to prayerfully consider.   

  • Visit Prison Fellowship’s landing page for COVID-19 to hear how the ministry is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic from Prison Fellowship’s CEO James Ackerman and receive regular updates as the situation continues to unfold. 
  • Read and share Prison Fellowship’s open letter to state and federal policy makers and corrections leaders with recommendations in response to COVID-19.
  • Use Prison Fellowship’s simple online tool to contact your federal and state lawmakers and request that they allocate funding to meet pressing needs within correctional facilities and limit the use of incarceration in certain circumstances.
  • Outrageous Justice is Prison Fellowship’s free small-group study that explores the criminal justice system through a biblical lens, current events, and personal stories. While many places of worship are closed, this could be an excellent opportunity to lead or participate in an online exploration of God's heart for justice and ways to pursue hope, and restoration in our communities. Click here to download your free copy today. 
  • While prisons are locked down, Prison Fellowship continues to make Bibles available for direct shipment to prisoners. In these uncertain times, men and women behind bars are hungry for a firm foundation for their lives—and eager for positive ways to spend their time while programming is limited or cancelled. Would you consider a donation to help Prison Fellowship meet this need? 
  • Check out this guide for how you can pray for prisoners, prison staff, and their families during this crisis. If you are personally affected by COVID-19, please let us know how we can pray. 
  • Every April, Prison Fellowship celebrates Second Chance® Month—a nationwide movement to unlock brighter futures for approximately 70 million American adults with a criminal record. 
  • Children with a parent in prison remain a key focus of Prison Fellowship throughout the year, but especially now, as in-prison visits with parents may be cancelled. Churches can sign up now to deliver a gift and the gospel to the children of prisoners during the 2020 Christmas season. 

You can visit the Prison Fellowship blog for more stories about loving those behind bars, including How Will COVID-19 Affect the Criminal Justice System? and What Christians Think About Prison Conditions and Caring for Prisoners.

By / Sep 28

Leading a Bible study in prison may sound intimidating, but after my work with Prison Fellowship®, I'd lead a Bible study in prison any day. For the past few years I've been blessed to co-lead a women's Bible study at a local jail. The experience has given me new insight into relating with women who are incarcerated.

You have more in common than you think

When I first entered the jail, I was conscious of how different I was from the women there. I wore jeans and a sweatshirt; they wore orange jumpsuits. I was a young woman leading a Bible study; they were mainly older inmates who couldn't find the Gospel of John.

But I quickly learned we had a lot in common. I miss my family across the country, and they miss their families outside the jail. They love their boyfriends and husbands, and I love my fiancé. But the most important thing I realized is that we all need Jesus.

One week a woman at the jail asked how she could pray for me, and she prayed the most loving words of blessing over me. That's when I realized that we are all women on a journey to be filled more abundantly with the love of Jesus, inside and outside prison. I stopped being afraid of incarcerated women and started seeing them—and myself—through eyes of faith.

You have more to talk about than you think

During a prisoner volunteer orientation, the warden warned us not to talk about our last names, our jobs, our families, or anything else that was personally identifiable. "Stick with your first names and the Bible lesson," he said. How could I build a relationship with women in prison when I couldn't talk about some of the most important things in my life or theirs?

But what I've realized is this: when you're standing at the foot of the cross, there is a lot to talk about. When both of you are sinners in need of grace, you have a great God to worship.

I don't know—and have never known—the reasons why the women are incarcerated. I don't know their crimes, and I don't need to know. What they know, and what I know, is that we are unbelievably loved and forgiven by our Savior, and that's something that we can talk about for all eternity.

You are more loved than you believe

It's easy to feel insufficient when you walk into a prison.

One of the first Bible studies I led was on the resurrection of Jesus. At the end of the evening, one of the women asked, "What does the word 'resurrection' mean?" I had been teaching for an hour, and they hadn't even known what I was talking about! I realized that I needed to define most of the Christian words that I was using—words like resurrection, salvation, or baptism.

I began to explain the gospel more simply over the next few weeks—and to my surprise, I found that I understood it more deeply. The gospel had become something that I could easily put into my own words, something far more understandable. Words like "salvation" suddenly had a lot more meaning when we came to the foot of the cross and celebrated the beauty of grace.

Sometimes I still feel insufficient to lead a Bible study in prison, but teaching there reminds me of Christ's sufficiency. His love for me doesn't depend on how well I define the word "resurrection." His love for us is unconditional, and that's why I'm excited to share it with women in prison.

This article originally appeared on Prison Fellowship’s site. To learn more about how you can be a part of ministry to prisoners and their families, click here.

By / Feb 19

On a hot summer day in 2012, Naghmeh Abedini drove her husband Saeed to the airport in Idaho. They shared a casual goodbye, assuming they’d see one another in two or three weeks. Instead he found himself imprisoned in an Iranian jail. They haven't seen or spoken to one another since that day.

Saeed, 33, was sentenced to eight years in prison after returning to Iran for a work trip. This began an almost two year nightmare for Naghmeh, who is now fighting for his release while raising their two children on her own.

“It has been the hardest time of my life,” Naghmeh said of his imprisonment. “I feel like my life was taken from me. I experienced extreme anxiety and depression at first. I cried out to the Lord and felt like the woman bleeding for 12 years” (Mark 5:25-34).  

Saeed’s imprisonment has caught the attention of major news sources as well as President Obama. At the recent National Prayer Breakfast, the president mentioned Saeed in his call for international religious freedom: “We pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini.  He’s been held in Iran for more than 18 months, sentenced to eight years in prison on charges relating to his Christian beliefs. And as we continue to work for his freedom, today, again, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho.”

Naghmeh believes President Obama’s inclusion of Saeed is a result of the people of the United States taking interest in her story and standing up for religious liberty.

“When the president speaks, he speaks about things that matter to the American people. Millions of people have been behind me–signing petitions, writing letters. When [the president] shared [my husband’s story] I knew that the American people had been speaking out,” she said.

On February 25 Naghmeh will have a chance to speak on religious persecution at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

“The American people care about the religious liberty—we hit a nerve with the American people and the world about Saeed’s imprisonment. Religious liberty is such an important part of our core values.”


“Saeed wanted to serve the people of Iran and the intelligence police said that he could continue to visit Iran as long as he did not [engage] the house church movement again,” she recounted.

After much prayer, Saeed returned to Iran—with the assistance and blessing of the Iranian government—to build an orphanage he and Naghmeh started in 2009.  

But everything changed when he was arrested and sentenced for “undermining the national security of Iran.”

“The basis of the law was the gathering of Christians,” she said. “They called it a soft war and are treating him as a political prisoner, not a religious prisoner.”

He was placed under house arrest in July of 2012 and then on September 26, 2012, while waiting on a call from officials about a potential hearing, he was met instead by a violent house raid.

“It was just a shock to his siblings and parents,” Naghmeh said. "We didn’t even know if he was alive for the first week.”

Since then, Saeed’s parents have been allowed to visit with him every week, but his condition is failing and prison doctors say he needs surgery.

“He is suffering from internal bleeding from earlier beatings as they were trying to get him to deny his faith,” she said. “He has been fainting and sick.”

Saeed was once a radical Muslim, but after his conversion, he channeled the passion toward evangelism. He went out into the streets sharing the gospel and launching house churches. And despite serving time in prison, he has not stopped sharing his faith.

Naghmeh’s story is a little different. A war between Iran and Iraq forced her family to flee Iran for California. At age nine, she and her twin brother heard the gospel and became Christians against their parents’ wishes. Attempting to squelch their new faith, her parents took away their Bibles and moved to Boise, Idaho, where they thought they might be more isolated from Christians. But 11 years later her parents converted, too.

Naghmeh’s desire to share the gospel led her back to her birth country in September of 2001. She began a Bible study with cousins and a few close friends. Within a year five people came to know Christ.  

Before returning to the U.S., Naghmeh visited a “building church” (churches that are allowed and monitored by the government) where she met her future husband Saeed, who was a pastor of an underground house church (a church not monitored by the government).

“Underground house churches were growing rapidly and within a few years it had grown to a few thousand converts,” she said. “The government and president changed and he promised to crack down on Christianity. Saeed had been arrested several times but would always be released.”

The couple married in Iran in 2004, but political unrest began to make it difficult for them to share their faith, having been arrested five times together. In 2005 they fled Iran.

Despite leaving Iran they never lost their passion to see Iranians come to know Jesus.

Since Saeed’s arrest and imprisonment in 2012, Naghmeh has had the opportunity to share his story to thousands of people in more than 196 countries.

In the process, Naghmeh has found a peace that transcends all understanding. “I felt the Lord say, ‘Get up, I’m going to use this for my gospel.’ I couldn’t see how the Lord would use this for good. I just wanted to pray it away.”

God has proven himself faithful. Naghmeh has seen more than 30 people come to Christ.

“I have peace and joy now that no one can take from me…I discovered the reality of Jesus.”

Naghmeh provided the following brief statement:

As Christians we know that nothing is more powerful than the power of prayer. But as Christians we are also called to speak out and take action on injustices happening around us. My husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, is an American citizen imprisoned illegally in Iran and being tortured and abused because of his Christian faith.  He needs your prayers. Our family asks you to stand with us and contact your local government officials to voice your concern about pastor Saeed and Christian persecution around the world. In Hebrews 13:3 we are told to remember those in prison as if imprisoned with them.