Released 6 June 2014
Giving Prisoners Hope through Prayer
The persistence of crime and imprisonment has become an all too familiar storyline in many Philadelphia neighborhoods. A vast majority of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who occupy prisons come from dysfunctional families, falling victim to a history of drugs and violence that has repeated itself from generation to generation. Instead of allowing prisoners to lose faith in themselves, The Salvation Army Philadelphia Tabernacle Corps Community Center seeks to provide them with hope and a new path to change their lives for the better.
The Salvation Army staff host weekly services for inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. The goal of the program is to actively work with young people in prisons to help them change the direction of their lives. They seek to offer words of comfort and hope to help prisoners make the necessary changes for the sake of their family's future.
"Many youth don't want to hear the message that can save their lives while they are free," said The Salvation Army Tabernacle Corps Community Center Commanding Officer Captain Nestor Valverde. "When they lose their freedom and realize they are in danger of spending months or years in prison, they open their eyes to reality."
For the past two years, The Salvation Army center has been preaching the gospel at the prison's chapel. Services are offered every Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The response from inmates has been excellent, with an average attendance of 50 to 70 inmates per service. The services are bilingual to accommodate all inmates.
In addition to prayer and counsel, The Salvation Army staff offer the opportunity for prisoners to register to receive a Bible study courses by mail. The Bible study courses allow prisoner's to explore their spirituality on their own between services. To date, more than 500 people have signed up to receive the Bible courses through the program.
Along with active prevention in the community, through dedication to youth education and spiritual programs, it is the hope of The Salvation Army that reaching out to prisoners will help to end the cycle of dysfunctional behavior and imprisonment in the Philadelphia community.
"We need to understand that the vast majority of these young people are victims of the circumstances in which they developed and came to be," said Valverde. "We hope that by bringing these prisoners the message of the gospel, it will save them and make them truly free."