“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ‘s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:18
Each one of us represents a complex story of how we’ve become who we are today. Our stories include moments of joy, pain, brilliance, and dysfunction – moments of delight and deep disappointment. But Scripture instructs us that we are not to be defined only by our worst or most painful moments – whether self-inflicted or through others’ choices.
For those who have committed crimes for which they are now incarcerated, the most difficult parts of their story have resulted in devastating consequences for others and for themselves. They are unable to escape or ignore the results of their worst decisions. Those who have been convicted of crimes often serve their sentences for life, even when and long after their incarceration ends.
It is clear that the journey to incarceration or conviction is complex: generational trauma, marginalization, self-hatred, addiction, and mental illness are common to the experience of people who commit crimes. These experiences do not excuse the offence; they explain the journey to incarceration.
While we would say that we are so much more than the consequences of our most harmful decisions, the same needs to be said for the person living out the consequences of their worst decisions within the criminal justice system. The same grace and worth we accept for ourselves we must extend to those whose choices are criminalized – this is loving our neighbour as ourselves. In doing this, we acknowledge that all have sinned and fallen short, and we all have the potential for redemption, transformation and growth.
We know this is possible because we believe in a God who made us all in His image – who provided hope for forgiveness in the form of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. A God who restores and reconciles us to Him, while calling us to be ambassadors of reconciliation.
We believe that full healing and restoration for crimes committed is possible through the reconciliation to God, to self, to family, to victims, and to community.
Prison Fellowship Canada’s mandate is to meet people who have committed crimes or who are impacted by crime – families of prisoners or victims of crime – wherever they are in their journey, to facilitate reconciliation and the freedom that it brings.
Our role is to help create the conditions where the story of the Prodigal Son is possible for every prisoner. A true story where the prisoner has the opportunity to be welcomed back, to be part of a story of restoration and transformation for them and all impacted by their decisions.
Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the transformation of lives – prisoners, families and victims – so that they all can experience spiritual freedom and have healthy relationships with God, others and themselves. This type of transformation is enabled by our partnerships with the government, Corrections staff, and the Canadian Christian community.
Those partnerships allow our staff and our volunteers to engage with prison staff and those who are in prison using our evidence-based and faith-based programming in over 135 correctional facilities across Canada.
We support the transformation of prisoners seeking to be reconciled and reintegrated into their families and communities. These efforts are reinforced by mobilizing the Christian church to play a meaningful role in a transformational response to crime, supporting victims of crime and families of prisoners.
These combined efforts contribute to justice – meaning God takes what has fallen over and sets it up straight – meaning righted relationships– for all, where everyone is able to thrive according to God’s intended creation and sovereignty.