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July 5, 2013

LIFE AFTER PRISON: Reducing crime does pay

Local minister’s mission is to help keep offenders from returning to jail

> SOUTHERN INDIANA —

The Rev. Richard Johnson believes in second chances. Maybe it’s because he’s been given a few of his own through the years, or perhaps he’s seen time and time again how these fresh starts pay off. 

Regardless of the reason, every Monday night a group he leads gathers on the bottom floor of Main Street United Methodist Church in New Albany looking for some of these second chances. Most of the participants have served time behind bars. Now, after being released, these men and women are trying to find their way in the outside world.

For more than 18 years, Johnson has been helping ex-inmates do just this. In 2005, he began Christian Formation Ministries, a biblically based organization that supports the spiritual needs of prisoners in and out of prison. 

Through the Successful Reentry (SURE) program, Johnson helps teach soon-to-be and recently released inmates the keys to a successful return to free society. At the same time, counseling is given to solve the inner conflict that caused the person to behave in such a negative way to begin with. 

“Government cannot heal matters of the heart. When we’re talking about addiction, talking about crime, talking about pain, there’s something going on in that person that is creating pain,” Johnson said. “See, we believe that crime is a manifestation of a heart problem. We have a heart problem and because our hearts are off, our thinking is affected. And if our hearts are wrong and our thinking is wrong, then our behavior is going to be wrong.”

 

INCARCERATION INSPIRATION

Johnson’s mission begins during the inmates’ incarceration. As the chaplain at Henryville Correctional Facility, he comes into contact with many of the prisoners before their release. Floyd County also welcomes his ministry into their jails and helps to relay information to their prison population. All services are free and open to any inmate.

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