“In Philadelphia, at least 35,000 persons return from prison and jail every year.” As followers of Christ, we are called to proclaim release to captives. Ministries like Redemption Housing and Philadelphia’s LIFE Ministry at Living Gospel are on the front lines of meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters who return to our community.

LIFE and Redemption Housing know the challenges faced by the formerly incarcerated, and one of the biggest needs is housing. The lack of housing directly impacts a person’s ability to secure and maintain gainful employment. So as these two ministries endeavor to assist and support folks in our community to achieve their goals and maintain stability, housing is a primary concern.

However, there are other challenges that one faces when “reentering” the community. While incarcerated, a person doesn’t make many decisions for themselves. The structure of incarceration atrophies self-management skills needed to keep a work schedule and appointments with probation officers. In addition, a conviction can hinder a person from securing a job and/or a living wage for years after release. Many people have arrests on their records which should not be there because they were never prosecuted. Those arrests will only go away by expungement, and that is a costly venture if you use an attorney. So, we assist our participants with writing and filing the legal documents necessary for expungement. Many have no support network, and therefore are disconnected from the community they return to. Unless these challenges are addressed, a person can be sent back to prison for “technical violations,” such as failing to make an appointment with a probation officer or failure to maintain employment, even if they never commit another crime.

Through the LIFE Ministry we are working to reverse these negative cycles with positive ones. Redemption Housing and the LIFE Ministry show the formerly incarcerated God’s grace and mercy while helping them improve basic life skills and prepare for employment.

At the LIFE Ministry, we coach people in how to keep a regular schedule without the discipline of the corrections system and teach them to navigate the areas of everyday life that have changed during their period of incarceration, such as public transit and technology. We also assist them with getting training for the skills needed for today’s working world as well as assist them in enrolling in educational programs that will help them meet their future goals. But mostly, we love them in God’s name.

Redemption Housing and the LIFE Ministry offer the stability and consistency that those who are returning to our community from incarceration need now and possibly for the long run. For every person we touch, if we can make a difference, that person will go on to make a difference. And the cycle continues.

Rev. Linda Manson is designated as a Mission Developer/Redeveloper by the ELCA and she is currently serving as Pastor/Mission Developer of Living Gospel Ministries. This congregation under development was started to assist people transitioning from incarceration back to community as well as those in our communities who have a conviction in their past. This ministry also offers support to the families of those who have a conviction in their past.

Linda is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, having received the Master of Divinity degree with concentrations in Metro/Urban Ministry and Black Church.