First Christian Works With MB3
by Rick Tipton
Mission Behind Bars and Beyond (MB3) is a faith-based ecumenical organization whose mission it is to educate every community across the Commonwealth of Kentucky to welcome, support, mentor, and equip previously incarcerated returning citizens with the tools to successfully re-enter society. The organization envisions a world in which returning citizens have the tools and opportunities that allow them to rejoin society as healthy, productive, and contributing members of the communities they live in. MB3 directly addresses the causes of recidivism and seeks to reduce the rate of recidivism among returning citizens released from Kentucky correctional facilities. The program adopts a multi-layer, holistic approach that begins with the individual while incarcerated, assists with pre-release preparation, and provides support and assistance once the individual returns to the community.
For those incarcerated, MB3 hosts worship services inside two detention facilities in Louisville--one for women (Dismas Charities-Diersen) and one for men (Dismas Charities-St. Ann). Before the pandemic, outside churches were invited in to lead worship along with outside visitors. Since the pandemic, MB3 has hosted live, remote worship services through Zoom on a regular basis. Outside visitors have been invited to join these services, too. MB3 also offers spiritual nurture through pastoral counseling from its two pastors and through education helpful for reentry through life-skills classes.
For those beyond the bars, MB3 connects individuals with mentors who meet weekly in groups of 3-5 mentors for one returning citizen. These groups (Nurture, Support and Accountability Groups) are covenanted to meet with the returning citizen for 6 months to a year upon their release. This holistic approach to reentry has proven to be very effective as MB3 has been in existence for over 10 years. The recidivism rate of those served by MB3 is dramatically lower that the recidivism rate of those generally released by the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Unfortunately, Kentucky has the seventh highest incarceration rate in the U.S. MB3 offers unique programming in this area of reentry and meets the needs of many people throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Using restorative justice circles, the Nurture, Support, and Accountability Groups Mentoring Program have successfully fostered desistance throughout Kentucky.
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic has proven to be disastrous for the progress and safety of people who are incarcerated. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, MB3 suspended all person-to-person programming for safety reasons; thus, halting the mentoring that fosters desistance.
However, MB3 is launching a new Virtual Nurture, Support, and Accountability Groups (VNSAG) Mentoring Program. The program consists of a group of volunteers who meet regularly online with a core member (returning citizen) to help them set and remain accountable to their life goals. Matches, training, and mentoring are web-based. Not only do mentors and core members meet safely while reducing the number of people who return to prison. VNSAG will help in reducing the annual cost of incarceration calculated to be an average of $122,695.30 per person. The goal is to impact the lives of 500 core members over a 2.5 year period. VNSAG will also increase the number of employable workers, desperately needed in this economy recovering from the pandemic. The greatest impact, by far, will be the love, faith, and hope given to effected individuals, families (extended and nuclear), and communities across the Commonwealth. All funds granted will be used for technology (mentoring, meeting, and administration software and hardware), volunteer recruitment, and staffing that supports VNSAG.
Before the pandemic, First Christian Church members participated in onsite worship services and other programs. In addition, we were thrilled to provide grant funds in both 2020 and 2021. The granted funds are supporting the coordination of the volunteer mentor program, providing more life skills training, recruiting and training more mentors, and supplementing the salaries of the MB3 staff. These services are provided year-round on an ongoing basis.
The wholeness grant used to fund this ministry was made possible through your faithful financial support of our church and its ministries and help fund a variety of efforts to make our world a better place.
You can find more examples of those efforts or apply for a grant to make the world a better place by clicking here.