NuLinks network of Partner Churches includes groups of 4 to 8 church members that have been approved by their leadership, interviewed / selected, record checked, and extensively trained* by NuLinks. We then stay closely involved with the team, their leadership, and the inmate as they deploy their ministry to welcome and support released inmates (and their families prior to release) in to the community in which they live…albeit not necessarily the church fellowship:
We do not proselytize, outside of sharing why we do what we do if asked. This way our support is as respectfully available to inmates of any faith (or lack thereof), albeit with the hope that it inspires interest in and attraction to becoming part of the smaller community and philosophy that has somehow motivated and empowered the love and ongoing support they have received, and the hope and faith that love and support has generated!
That is how we define evangelism: preach the good news…of God’s unending love and relentless desire for every human life to know this with joy and strength…and, if necessary, use words.
The Aftercare Team will consist of a Point Person who liaises between the Partner Church pastoral staff / council and NuLinks. Depending on the size of the church congregation and population density of the area (ie. frequency of released inmates returning to that area), teams will consist of 4 to 8 or more members.
The emphasis of the one hour introductory training / info session will firstly be on awareness of corrections statistics, misguided societal beliefs, trends and attitudes. From there it will examine the plight of the returning citizen and the various internal and external obstacles facing them, followed by what NuLinks is doing about that and how. Finally we will describe the various levels and forms of volunteerism available, take questions, and break for refreshments.
We do not expect everyone to return for the longer, 2 hour training segment after hearing the realities and expectations of the ministry.
The training is too detailed to describe in full here, but suffice to say it involves:
- warmly welcoming and providing ongoing, local support to released inmates and their families sent to them by NuLinks
- promoting similar understanding, support, and warm embrace in the congregation so individuals and families are encouraged to become part of the church family and its activities
- knowing when to segue the individuals toward the various professional, experienced Resource Partners we have available
- communicating regularly with NuLinks and fulfilling its mandate under our direction and accountably adhering to our policies
A summary of the training / reference manual contents each trainee will receive can be downloaded here.
* There is an infinitely wide range of personality types and cultural prejudices, moral and ethical aptitudes, organically and environmentally generated mental and emotional disorders, addictions and obsessions, and varying abilities to deceive and manipulate…
…and that’s in society outside the corrections system!
We are acutely sensitive in the need to remain fully aware of this in our evaluation and assignment of released inmates to a well matched Aftercare Team. We have a range of screening processes that safely vett out any individuals who 1.) require more specialized and complex assistance than we can provide, and 2.) represent any appreciable threat…historically or behaviorally…to our volunteers or the church communities they attend. These processes include reviews by Corrections Canada officials and chaplains (directly or through several of our Resource Partners), prison visitation volunteers, and finally our board of directors (including my own impressions from visiting with the individual several times before release).
Assignment of which Aftercare Team and Partner Church is the best fit is evaluated just as carefully. Our volunteers awareness of and familiarity with the dynamics described in the first paragraph…particularly in that their presence is more frequent in both offenders and (moreso) individuals who have experienced prison life.
Our training is therefore designed, presented, and continually supplemented in consultation with both Corrections Canada guidelines and training, as well as in close consultation with individuals who have extensive experience with all types of inmates…before and after incarceration (such as our board member Henk Smidstra).