Hope for the Incarcerated: Kairos Prison Ministry

‘Lock them up and throw away the key,’ is the term most people use when referring to prisoners. Imagine if that was God’s tactic towards us when we failed Him, as most of us do. Repentance is the key to salvation—it’s a key that’s made available to everyone, even prisoners.  While some hard-core criminals have committed horrendous crimes and must suffer the consequences of their actions, God’s graciousness extends to everyone. His invitation for a relationship is always there because He doesn’t want anyone to perish. Should they miss the opportunity to repent, God’s wrath awaits them at the appointed time. Colin Stiller, chair of the board at Kairos Prison Ministries Australia has a passion to spread the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus to prisoners. Colin joined Neil Johnson on Vision Radio’s 20Twenty to talk about the impact the Gospel is having on prisoners and their families. When you think of the cost of incarceration, prison ministries such as Kairos are extremely valuable in not only saving souls but also saving dollars. Would you rather have a saved person leaving prison or someone who is likely to reoffend?

Colin shared the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2023 report as currently having approximately 41,000 people in low, medium, or maximum-security prisons, including juvenile centres, where minors under 18 are held. The ratio of female prisoners is 7.5% to 92.5% male prisoners—a common figure around the world. ‘Most of the institutions have a protection centre for the high profile, the vulnerable, even mentally incapacitated. So they go into special cells that are secured.’ Colin also shared the problem of recidivism. ‘The prisoners who get out and re-offend is around about 60% of inmates who have been inside before, which is quite a large figure when we compare it to the rest of the world. Roughly 40% of inmates re-offend in the first year from release, and after two years, you have 50% reoffending.’  Colin said Australia is one of the worst countries when it comes to reoffending prisoners. The bill to Australian taxpayers each year is over $5 billion for incarcerating people. This works out to about $130,000 to $150,000 per person per year to keep them incarcerated.

‘One of the things we do in Kairos Prison Ministry is we minister to those who are inside, both men, women, and juveniles. But we also minister to the families of those who are incarcerated because often they are the forgotten ones who are doing time even though their loved one is on the inside. And these are the people we’re reaching, and our message is undergirded by God’s grace.’  When we consider that Australia has such a high rate of reoffending prisoners, it makes sense to support prison ministries to rehabilitate prisoners, some of whom, once released, become prison chaplains, Colin reported. The program offered by Kairos is a short 3-to-5-day course about Christianity. After the short course, participants are encouraged to attend the Kairos Journey program aimed to encourage and facilitate them to continue supporting each other, alongside prison chaplains, to build self-sustaining Christian communities within the prisons. The course is offered to all prisoners, regardless of their beliefs.

‘Some prisoners actually feel a little more comfortable inside than they do on the outside because of the rejection that they get,’ said Colin. ‘What we want to do with our ministry is help them to understand that there is a God there, a God of second chances, that He does love them. We’re there to try and show that love in positive ways. This then hopefully has a change where they rehabilitate from the inside out.’  Kairos volunteers undergo stringent training over four weekends where they are taught what to do and what not to do, and the ethos and the goals of the ministry. Inmates are invited to attend, or they can express their interest to the prison chaplain, who will arrange for them to attend over the four and a half days of the course.  ‘It’s really up to them as to whether they accept that invitation. It’s voluntary and at any time they can opt out of the program.’ Colin said the last program he attended had all nineteen participants finish the program entirely. ‘They could see that this program had something different about it.’

Kairos Prison Ministry International runs in the UK, Canada, South Africa, countries in South America, and the United States. Kairos Australia is always looking for volunteers who are ready to pray, financially support the ministry, or become a part of a Kairos team who visits prisoners.  Colin is very clear in pointing out that Kairos does not endorse criminality. While prisoners are reaping the consequences of their actions, Kairos is offering rehabilitation, so they don’t reoffend and more importantly, giving them a chance to repent to save their souls from eternal damnation.  ‘What we are trying to do is help the participant change from the inside. We want them to realise God’s love and forgiveness for them. … We don’t coerce anyone to make a response. There is always a balance between justice and forgiveness,’ said Colin. ‘We’re not advocates for the prisoners. We are advocates for Jesus. We want to see a change on the inside of that person.

Source: Vision Christian Media

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