WMU promotes 'restorative justice'
April 25 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

WMU promotes 'restorative justice' | Friday, April 25, 2003

Friday, April 25, 2003

WMU promotes 'restorative justice'

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Most people call it "prison ministry." The N.C. Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) calls it "restorative justice," a reminder that incarceration is not just about punishment. True justice, in the biblical sense, also seeks the restoration of wrongdoers and their victims alike.

Showing compassion to women in the prison system is nothing new for N.C. WMU, which has sponsored an annual retreat for inmates at Camp Mundo Vista for more than 20 years, and a camp for inmates' children called "Camp Angel Tree." During the Christmas season each year, women across the state collect toiletry items that are packed into distinctive red boxes and delivered to inmates in four of the state's five major correctional institutions for women. Local projects include activities for youthful offenders and suitcases or duffel bags containing toys and comfort items for children who must go into foster care when their mothers go to jail.

The N.C. WMU recently began a two-year special emphasis on restorative justice, during which WMU members will learn more about mission needs and be encouraged to get involved in local opportunities. Participants at the annual "Missions Extravaganza" contributed to a special offering to support particular projects.

On April 17, WMU leaders met in Cary to present checks for more than $13,000 to prison representatives for three special projects promoted at the two "Missions Extravaganza" meetings this spring.

Margaret Harding, adult women's specialist with N.C. WMU, oversees the restorative justice emphasis, which she said "educates and equips God's people to meet the needs of victims, offenders, law enforcement and communities, resulting in biblical change in the criminal justice system."

Those affected by crime cannot be restored to a sense of peace, Harding said, unless "God's people get involved in bringing Christ to those hurt by the evil of crime."

Brenda Jarra, superintendent of the North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women, accepted a check for $6,000 for the facility's REACH program, headed by social worker Rhonda Robertson. REACH stands for REndering Access to her CHildren, Robertson said. The funds will purchase furnishings and equipment for a supervised visitation center and playground where inmates can visit with their children.

Jarra said she tells inmates that prison is much like a waiting room. "You decide what to do while you're waiting," she said. "When the wait is over, you decide whether you leave with God or without Him."

George Sweat, executive secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency, accepted another $6,000 for the department's RINGS program. Sweat, who said the number of incarcerated youth is at an all time low, said he is convinced that a "forgiveness model" is needed. "There is no doubt in my mind that God is opening doors for us," he said.

RINGS (Responsibility, Individual, Neighbor, God and Service) is designed to help at-risk youth learn more about their faith and spiritual growth. The program provides Bible study materials, a T-shirt and a jacket for those completing the program. Chaplain Chris Houston, who works at the C.E. Dillon Youth Development Center in Butner, said RINGS "is a last attempt" to help youth avoid joining the adult prison population.

N.C. WMU president Caroline Jones also presented a $1,500 check to Marla Cates, chaplain at Raleigh Correctional Center for Women, and program supervisor Marcia Barnes. The money will be put in a discretionary fund to help prepare women for release by securing identification cards, transportation for jobs, housing deposits, and other needs.

Ruby Fulbright, executive director for N.C. WMU, said "Project Help" emphases such as restorative justice and the previous focus on literacy are making a difference. "Many women are looking for their part in God's plan," she said. "Through these emphases they often find their niche."

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4/25/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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