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  • Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry

What is the OCPM?(and why should I care?)
Building and maintaining prisons is one of the
fastest growing "industries" in the United
States. The incarceration rate in the U.S. is 725
per 100,000 the highest in the world. More
and more men, women, and children are being
incarcerated each day, a situation that burdens
the imprisoned, their families, and society.
Taxpayers pay an average of 20,000/year per
inmate to keep someone incarcerated. Beyond the
issues of how to prevent people from entering the
prison system is how to care for those already
behind bars. Faith-based organizations such as
OCPM are working to reduce recidivism and to
serve the imprisoned in various ways by bringing
them the Sacraments, religious instruction, by
reaching out to their family members, and by
promoting legal reforms.     
What is the OCPM?
The mission of the Orthodox Christian Prison
Ministry is to love prisoners in the name of
Jesus Christ, and to help them grow in the
ancient faith. Although there are already many
people involved in prison ministry in the
Orthodox Church, in 2005, Bishops, Priests and
laity met in Wichita, Kansas to form the Orthodox
Christian Prison Ministry, authorized by SCOBA to
organize, promote and assist prison ministry in
the Orthodox Church.
St. Silas, Patron Saint of OCPM Saint Silas was a
companion and fellow laborer of the Apostle Paul
"And Paul chose Silas and departed...and he went
through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the
churches" (Acts 1540-41). Silas was beaten and
imprisoned with Paul at Philippi. He later became
Bishop of Corinth, and reposed in peace.
The purpose of OCPM is to support and assist
Parishes and individuals already involved in
prison ministry and to help new ministries get
What exactly is Prison Ministry anyway?
Prison ministry is a way to put the Gospel
message into practice. Through prison ministry, a
group of compassionate individuals is able to
bring the hope of the Gospel to those who are
isolated in correctional facilities, and their
families, and to assist ex-offenders in
transitioning back into society. Not everyone
feels called to go inside a jail or prison, but
there are many ways to be involved in prison
ministry. The Lord can use all of His people in
prison ministry.
Why should I care?
It is understandable that people avoid prison
ministry - our sympathies are with the victims,
not the perpetrators. Yet we cannot avoid the
fact that the Gospel calls us to share the Good
News and the love of Christ with all people in
all places, and that prisons are places where we
meet Him, as in Matthew 25.
Christ calls us to treat prisoners in a way that
contradicts the conventional wisdom of locking
them up and throwing away the key. In Matthew's
Gospel, He instructs us to feed the hungry,
welcome strangers, and visit prisoners. He also
says, "whatever you did for one of these least
brothers of mine, you did for Me."
Why should I care?
Aside from our Lords commandment, these men and
women are returning to our communities, our
streets and in our midst. Nationally, over 1,600
individuals are released from jail or prison
every day. Offenders are most at risk for
offending again within the first 60 days of being
released. Most of them dont make it. Statistics
show that the recidivism rate is between 70 and
80 percent. Yet prisoners who received
religious support/instruction while in prison had
an 11 lower rate of recidivism than those who
had none. They also had a longer crime-free
period following release, and when they did
commit new crimes, the crimes were less severe,
while the control group had increased
crime-severity. The recidivism rate for women
with religious support was even lower, only 19,
compared to 47 among the control group, even
though women face much greater challenges during
re-entry than men.
Why should I care?
Because through OCPM and re-entry programs, we
have the privilege and the opportunity to change
Because The ONLY answer for them is CHRIST. As
the body of Christ, God commands us to reach
those in prison with the gospel of Jesus Christ
(Matt. 2535-46, Mark 1615, Matt. 2414, Isaiah
611, Luke 1418) Our mission is
to deliver the message of forgiveness and
reconciliation, the Good News of the
Gospel, to all people.
But why do we need an Orthodox prison ministry?
(Arent there plenty of other prison ministries?)
Orthodox inmates have unique needs the
Sacraments, Orthodox study materials, support
from their Orthodox family outside the prison
The Orthodox Church has a compelling message to
non-Orthodox inmates. While many faith-based
organizations and groups concentrate on feeling
good, our Orthodox faith is concerned with
theosis, growing in Christ.
Special Needs of Women and Their Families
  • Who is she?
  • - African American- 33 years of age-
    serving 3-5 years for petty crimes, usually drug
    related- connected to her 'man', her partner, or
    accomplice in crime- former victim of physical
    or sexual abuse- a mother of two or more
    children- a woman with gifts, talents, and
  • What does she need?- an environment which
    nurtures her faith
  • - help to know she's forgiven- women mentors
    who model godliness
  • - practical assistance and support

Special Problems of Women
  • Although far fewer women than men are sentenced
    to prison, their rates of incarceration are
    increasing faster than those of men and they come
    back to their communities with unique needs and
    challenges, particularly children and family
    issues and employment.
  • While the number of male prisoners has grown 80
    since 1990, the number of female prisoners has
    increased 114. Women offenders are also more
    likely than men to have substance abuse problems,
    mental illnesses and to have been unemployed
    before incarceration.
  • Although, recidivism rates are lower for women
    than for men, studies tell us that within three
    years, nearly 60 of women are rearrested, 40
    reconvicted, and 40 returned to prison.
  • Incarceration weakens family and community ties,
    and ex-offenders often have few job skills and
    spotty work histories, so that without financial,
    family or community support, women are at high
    risk of returning to crime to support themselves
    and their children.

Special Problems of Women
  • Some obstacles that women face
  • Reestablishing a home and family life, including
    regaining legal and physical custody
  • of children
  • More than two-thirds of all women in
    prison have children under the age of 18, and
    most were the primary caretakers of their
    children prior to incarceration, often regaining
    custody after release. Almost 2 million children
    have a parent in prison. 90 of current inmates
    have had a family member who was incarcerated.
    Children whose mothers are incarcerated are at
    higher risk for problems at school and have
    higher drop-out and delinquent behavior rates.
    Many of them end up in foster care, with
    grandparents or other relatives, or ricocheting
    from family members to other temporary
  • Finding a job with benefits that will enable her
    to pay for basic needs (food, housing,
    transportation, childcare etc.)
  • Creating a new personal environment that
    reinforces normal (non-criminal) attitudes and
  • Fulfilling conditions of parole
  • Special long term health problems
  • Naturally men exiting prison face some of these
    same obstacles, however women, are often less
    equipped to overcome these obstacles to reentry.
    Women in prison are typically young and unmarried
    with children.
  • Compared to men, they have more childcare
    responsibilities, fewer job skills, less work
    experience, and more significant psychological
    problems, often due to long histories of abuse
    (estimates range as high as 80).
  • Few have any practical knowledge about what
    resources are available to them in the community,
    much less how to access these resources or
    negotiate complicated bureaucracies.

How can I get involved?
GETTING STARTED Only a small number of Orthodox
Christians are involved in ministry to prisoners
and their families, despite the fact that jails
and prisons are found in almost every community.
Prison ministry does not necessarily mean you
are called to actually go into a prison. Not
everyone feels comfortable visiting a prison, yet
everyone can participate in other ways. It is
important that everyone has the opportunity to
participate at a level they are comfortable
Getting Started
  • Questions to ask
  • What are the needs and resources of the Parish
    and the community?
  • Is there already a priest or Parish involved in
    prison ministry in your area?
  • Do you know of Orthodox inmates or families who
    need your assistance and support?
  • How many people would want to be a part of this
    kind of ministry?
  • What resources are available, both in the Parish
    and in the community?
  • How do you want to become involved and on what
  • Note You can find information about your state
    Department of Corrections, either on the internet
    or in the phone book. The Chaplain Program in the
    Department of Corrections will help determine
    what procedures you need to follow and how you
    could be of assistance. 

Prison Ministry in the Parish
  • Some suggestions for Parish prison ministry
  • Worship Services and Bible Studies. These will
    generally have to be co-coordinated through the
    Chaplain of the correctional facility. Training
    and authorization may be required, through the
    Department of Corrections.
  • Orthodox Correspondence courses Correspondence
    courses in Orthodoxy to be sent directly to
    inmates from Fr. David Ogan or the St.
    Athanasius Academy.
  • Pen Pal Program
  • Perhaps the simplest way to become
    involved is through a Pen Pal program, since less
    than 20 percent of inmates receive visitors or
    mail regularly. Some studies have shown that pen
    pal and visitor programs have reduced the
    recidivism rate of the participants by as much as
    34. Parish members simply adopt an inmate as a
    friend, writing letters, and sending birthday and
    holiday cards. Parish participants should commit
    to writing at least twice a month for one year.
    Write on a regular schedule, possibly every two
    or three weeks. Think about your letters, and
    prayerfully consider the impact of your words on
    an inmate. Pray for your pen pal.
  • Visitor Program
  • Some people may be willing to visit inmates
    inside the correctional facility. They should
    make a commitment to participate as a visitor for
    at least one year. The chaplain will be able to
    advise you about the policies and procedures of
    the correctional facility. It is very important
    that you know the rules of the prison governing
    visitors. For example, in almost all prisons, it
    is illegal for an inmate to possess any money or
    for you to give an inmate anything.
  • Your responsibility is to become a
    friend, not a pastor, lawyer or banker. Do not
    get involved in his or her case do not lend him
    or her money.  This is a ministry of sharing
    Christs love through your actions, not
    preaching. However there are some common sense
    guidelines that should be followed
  • Dont give any inmate your address or phone
    number. Use the mailing address of the church or
    a post office box.
  • Dont stop writing or visiting without an
    explanation. Honor your commitments.
  • Dont tolerate offensive or threatening language
    or behavior. If letters or behavior become
    offensive, report the incident to the chaplain or
    the correctional facility administration.
  • Dont send or provide money, stamps or other
    items of value. All prisons have regulations
    governing these items, which are called
    contraband, and the inmate can get into serious
    trouble for receiving or possessing contraband.
    Many prisons do not allow inmates to receive
    books or other materials from anyone except
    directly from the publisher.
  • Dont get involved or take sides in the inmates
    legal affairs, or problems with the correctional
    facility or staff. .

Getting Involved
  • Ways you can help
  • Prayer
  • Visitation
  • Correspondence
  • Provide Bibles and study materials
  • Mentoring
  • Job referrals
  • Transitional housing
  • Re-entry Care Kits (personal hygiene, bus passes,
    phone cards)
  • Donate food or clothing
  • Job skills training
  • Financial support to OCPM

Prison Ministry in the Parish
  •  Re-entry and After-care
  • 90 of inmates are released to return to their
    communities. Within four years of release, three
    out of four will be back in prison most for
    crimes committed during the first three weeks
    after their release.
  • If we were sent somewhere with no job, and no
    family or friends to rely on, with only a few
    dollars for food, shelter, and transportation,
    even if we are well-educated and experienced with
    no criminal record, we would have a very
    difficult time finding a job and a place to live.
    So the reality is ex-offenders are being asked to
    do the impossible!
  • One of the best ways that Parishes can minister
    to ex-offenders is to develop a resource manual
    for newly released offenders, and assist them in
    accessing programs designed to assist them with
    re-entry through job training and other
    assistance. This resource manual could include
    maps, bus schedules, and addresses of ex-offender
    programs and ministries. Part of the process of
    putting together the resource manual would be to
    research and contact the various ministries and
    programs available to assist ex-offenders.
  • Ministry to Families
  • Some of the needs of inmates families are
    obvious. Loss of income means that obtaining
    food, clothing and shelter have now become
    critical in what was probably a difficult
    situation to begin with. One huge problem for
    families is transportation for visitation.
    Generally, prisons are located in rural areas,
    far off the beaten path, for obvious reasons.
    Many times, families do not have the financial
    resources to fund these trips to visit inmates,
    and sometimes they travel long hours by bus, only
    to be turned away, if the inmate has been
    transferred or is not allowed to receive
  • Yet the families suffer in many other, less
    obvious ways. Often the families report that they
    feel as if they are imprisoned along with their
    loved one, even though they themselves committed
    no crime. They report being ostracized by
    friends, family, neighbors, and even their
    church. Almost half of all inmates come from a
    family where a member of their immediate family
    was in prison while they were growing up.
  • There are many opportunities for ministry with
    families of inmates, but you will probably have
    to seek them out. Shame and fear of rejection
    will keep them from contacting you. One of the
    best ways is to simply be a caring and
    compassionate friend, a brother or sister in

Why Prison Ministry?Walters Story
Free at last
  • Walter was a very large black man who did 32
    years in prison for murder and first degree
    arson. He was sent to our program not because
    anyone thought he could get a job, but only to
    help him adjust in the free world.
  • Walter was scared to death when he walked in the
    door. He had no idea how to mix with free world
    people. He looked down at the floor all the time,
    avoided eye contact and spoke very little. It
    wasn't until later that we found out what Walter
    did in prison for most of his life. He worked
    with dogs. Walter loved dogs. Maybe because they
    gave him what he needed in life - unconditional
    love.  We got Walter to smile. That was the big
    break. Something that may be small to us but for
    him that was the beginning.  We taught Walter
    that it was ok to smile. We taught Walter how to
    speak with people. Walter learned that he was a
    valuable person. Everyone treated him as if he
    were someone important. This meant a great deal
    to this man. All he wanted was to gain respect
    and not let anyone down - he always promised me
    that he would never disappoint me. He never did. 
  • Walter got a job at a restaurant as the
    dishwasher. Not such a great job. But Walter
    treated that job as if he were the owner of the
    place. And the owner and all the employees loved
    Walter. When the owner found out I was trying to
    get Walter a job working with dogs, he gave
    Walter a 2.00/hour raise to keep him with the
    promise of a truck as soon as he could drive.
  • Unfortunately Walter is dead. He died at the
    restaurant last Tuesday, suddenly of a heart
    attack. Thirty two years in prison and he died
    at 60 years old. You do the math. I have mixed
    feelings about this. I am sad that this very
    sweet and humble man is dead, after only a few
    months of freedom. I grew to like and respect
    Walter. I am sorry I never got to the restaurant
    to see him work. He always asked me when ever he
    saw me to tell everyone to come by. I am sorry
    that Walter never got to realize his dream of one
    day having a dog of his own.
  • But Walter died a happy man. He had a job, a
    place of his own to live in, and  most
    importantly, he had friends. He said that the one
    thing he wanted was to have friends and their
    respect. He had mine. Walter died doing what he
    loved and around the people he loved and called
    friends. Now Walter is free at last. I feel
    privileged that I was part of his life.
  • May his memory be eternal.
  • Dennis Dunn, OCPM

  • We humbly submit the needs of this ministry to
    our Heavenly Father and rely on the family of God
    to help us to fund this missionary activity here
    in North America. What might you offer so this
    ministry can grow and become more vital?
  • First, help us in praying for those in prison and
    their families. We can mail to you the names of
    our flock so that you can intercede in prayer for
    them, these men and women who live in a very dark
    and dangerous environment.
  • You can also help us to pastor our congregation.
    God may be calling you to be a witness of His
    love. The fact is we are all called to love
    sinners as well as saints. We can help equip you
    to go into prisons so that you can bring
    searching souls out of the prison of sin into the
    light of Gods freedom.
  • You can help us by financial support.
  • Through the prayers of St Silas, we ask that God
    be merciful to us and save us. Amen.
  • Rev. Fr. David Ogan, OCPM

Support OCPM
  • With prayer
  • By spreading the word
  • By starting or helping in
  • prison ministry
  • Financially

Contact Information Dennis Dunn, OCPM,, 404-447-0849 Korrey Wor,
President, OCPM, 1-405-250-5215
  • V. Rev. Father David Ogan
  • PO BOX 822169
  • Vicksburg, Mississippi 39182
  • Phone and Fax (601) 636-8392,
  • Provides icon prayer cards, catechetical
    workbooks, and Orthodox prayer books that help
    the imprisoned faithful. Aside from the Bible,
    the most requested books are the Orthodox
    Christian Journey series, consisting of four
    books Orthodox Christian Journey, Orthodox
    Christian Catechism, Orthodox Christian
    Prayerbook, and Orthodox Christian Readings,
    written in everyday American language, easily
    read and understood, filled with profound truths
    of the Holy Orthodox Faith. A self-directed study
    book to be used in conjunction with Orthodox
    Christian Catechism is also available. By using
    these materials, many prisoners transform their
    prison cells into prayer cells.
  • V. Rev. Constantine Mersinas, Metropolis of
    Atlanta Prison Ministry
  • SS. Markella Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
  • P.O. Box 2135
  • Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32549
  • 850-244-0822, email
  • Dennis Dunn, OCPM Board member,
  • Director of Job Development
  • Atlanta Enterprise Center
  • 81 Peachtree Pl NE
  • Atlanta, GA 30309
  • 404-874-8001 extension 12,

  • Prisoner Education Project Correspondence Study
    Program for Prisoners
  • CS 100 - Basic Christian Spirituality I Gaining
    and maintaining an Orthodox Christian
  • CS 101 - Basic Christian Spirituality II,
    Continuation of CS 100
  • CS 102 Prayer Developing and maintaining a
    meaningful prayer life within prison walls
  • If the above are all completed successfully, the
    prisoner may, with the guidance of the faculty of
    St. Athanasius Academy, continue with appropriate
    courses selected from the St. Athanasius Academy
    Correspondence Studies Program. Upon the
    completion of a program of studies under the
    direction of the faculty, the prisoner may earn
    the Diploma in Orthodox Christian Studies.
    Application forms for admission and for
    scholarship assistance can be obtained from
  • Prisoner Education ProjectSt. Athanasius
    Academy of Orthodox Theology, Suite 17010519 E.
    Stockton Blvd. Elk Grove, CA 95624
  • Will provide Bibles free to prisoners
  • Scripture Press Ministry, Miss Helen Gorges,
    P.O. Box 513,
  • Glen Ellyn, IL 60138
  • International Prison Ministry (I.P.M.)P.O. Box
    63Dallas, TX 75221E-mail taran_at_ipm.orgWebsite
  • Bible Alliance, Inc. P.O. Box 621 Bradenton, FL
  • (NKJ New Testament and tapes, Sent to chaplains