When I was a newly ordained pastor in 1966, I heard a speech by a federal judge that significantly shaped my life and ministry. The judge said that he kept in contact with every person he sentenced to prison. His rationale for writing or visiting inmates was simple: he didn’t want his only impact on an individual to be the act of denying his or her freedom.
This highly regarded jurist then said, “Pastors should be as familiar with the inside of the local jails and prisons as they are the local hospitals.” He observed that most people who are hospitalized have a strong support system and are surrounded by people devoted to their healing and well-being. By contrast, people housed in jails and prisons receive minimal support, and the people around them are mostly committed to confining and punishing them.