Collateral Damage of Incarceration

Addressing the Collateral Damage of Incarceration

The Does God Exist?” ministry is heavily involved in prison work. Over 5600 incarcerated men and women across the United States are taking our free apologetics courses, and additional students are using our eight Bible study courses. Those of us who grade these courses are constantly learning of the collateral damage of incarceration.

Wives, husbands, and especially children are the innocent victims of a person’s incarceration for substance abuse, alcoholism, anger mismanagement, domestic violence, and other offenses. We frequently get letters from prisoners taking our courses asking us to contact family members to see if their needs are being met for food, shelter, personal hygiene items, clothing, and medical care.

Churches in our area have begun a program called “Backpack Buddies” to help meet some of those needs. Working with police and fire agencies, these churches have purchased backpacks and filled them with things a child would need. That includes items like hair brushes and combs, toothpaste and toothbrushes, lotion, soap, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products. Other items included may be blankets, washcloths, and towels.

The Christian system teaches us to care for those in need. Visiting those in prison doesn’t mean just saying “hi.” It also involves helping those who are suffering and those who are caused to suffer by the mistakes of others. Jesus had strong words against those who offend children (See Matthew 18:1-6). I have seen the trauma involved when a child watches their mother or father be handcuffed and dragged out of the home, leaving them alone or at the mercy of people who don’t love them. Family services and shelters do what they can, but the number of those in need frequently overwhelms those agencies.

We don’t justify the destructive actions of adults in our world, but we know that Jesus would have us address the collateral damage of incarceration. “Backpack Buddies” is a great way to attempt to do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2023