Volume 53 Number 3 , May 1, 2004

The Indiana Women's Prison

Melissa Benton

The Indiana Womenís Prison is located a little less than a mile away from our church. This facility houses approximately 325 women at any given time. Every day, women are released from this facility into our community. Despite their time spent in prison, most of these women are released without any of the support or skills needed to successfully adjust to being released.

Almost three years ago, I was released from the Indiana prison system after being incarcerated for 7 Ĺ years. I had no job, no money, and was overwhelmed and panicked at the thought of trying to make it in the ďreal worldĒ. What I did have though, were grandparents who encouraged me to begin attending services here at Englewood. Because of the support that I received from my family and friends here at Englewood, I am one of the few women being released each year who donít go back to prison.

The experts who study criminal justice have come up with a bunch of statistics about how many offenders commit new crimes and return to prison. These statistics would lead you to believe that people in prison are a hopeless population who are not worth the effort of helping.

I am here to tell you that these experts are wrong. I am here to tell you that God is capable of radically changing a personís life. He can take what should have been a statistic and completely change it. Iíve seen Him do it, over and over again in my life in the last three years.

What Heís changing my life into, Iím still not sure. Itís a little too soon for the end of the story. But there are two things about my story that I know for sure. The first is that I would not be where I am now without the help and support of the intentional community we have formed here at Englewood. The second thing that I know for sure is that I donít have to be the only one. We have an amazing opportunity available to us with our location. We have a community full of people with talents and resources that can be used to make a difference in someoneís life.

Itís not an easy job. I know that the last three years of my life have often seemed like a roller-coaster at times. And Iím sure that my close friends here at Englewood would agree that it takes patience and determination to work with ex-convicts. But we know that it can happen, and we know that it can happen here with us.

We are currently looking for ways that Englewood can become involved in offender reintegration programs. Please see me if you have any thoughts or ideas about this, or if you are interested in helping.

Thank you

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