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Does faith community reintegration work for every offender?

Recently a new friend asked me what I did for a living.


I began to tell him about the vital work of community reintegration. His response? "Good luck with that!"

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised—and perhaps you’ve had similar responses as well.


Hardly a week goes by without national or provincial news about a high-profile offender who has reoffended. Such headlines persuade us there is no hope for a healthy reintegration experience.


Thankfully, this couldn’t be further from the truth.


While the work of reintegration can be very complex, in general, the high-profile cases that capture news headlines are more often than not a result of an offender leaving a correctional institution with no meaningful, comprehensive support.

We know that healthy reintegration becomes possible when we can help offenders into the 'relational resource centre' of their church or faith community.

When healthy relationships of trust are established and modelled, when accountability is nurtured, and when resources such as employment, therapy, addiction treatment and housing are made available, a parolee begins to gain one of the invaluable qualities of life: hope.


And what we are discovering is, when a parolee does re-offend, the re-offence is typically less severe than previous offences. Further, that situation becomes an opportunity to focus our relationships and resources more closely on and around the specific challenges that parolee is wrestling with.


Does faith community reintegration work for every offender?


Full disclosure: yes . . . and no.


Yes, because:

Every dimension of support that ‘we’ (the Better Life Team and all the amazing churches and faith communities, mentors, and volunteers) can offer impacts a parolee’s life for the better, and often for eternity.

Just this spring, LS entered parole. Because of the nature of his crime, he couldn’t go back to his former occupation. But LS was willing to begin again at the bottom. He recognized his need for the support of his church community.

Recently, a Better Life Team member and I met with LS. He shared examples of his growing faith and his desire to serve in his church in the area God has gifted him (to give back).


He spoke about Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, an excellent book by Dr. Henry Cloud that LS's Better Life reintegration partner had given him before he was released on parole, and how he is applying its principles in his life each day.


He talked about how, while humbly being willing to ‘begin at the bottom,’ he was now being given the opportunity to provide site management and the promise of greater advancement in the future in his new field.


The story of LS’s life is being written, or perhaps ‘rewritten,’ in such a redemptive way.

Another recent example is CM.


On the day of CM’s release, the Better Life reintegration partner, who had been supporting him while he was still inside, and I accompanied him to a church within a close distance from his halfway home.


CM told the pastor his story and the pastor welcomed CM into his community and talked with him about the ways that he could experience meaningful relationships and support at the church. A pathway for healthy reintegration was created for CM to travel on.

So, where does the 'No' come in? When doesn't faith community reintegration work?

Really, the only time faith community reintegration can't 'work’ is when there’s no church or faith community available to reintegrate the individual into.

And that, in a nutshell, is the challenge.


Our hope, our prayer, and our commitment as Better Life is to have trained, equipped and supported churches and faith communities throughout the Pacific Region that are ready to welcome and support a parolee through their community reintegration.


We are continually meeting with and providing training for churches and faith communities, but we need so many more.


And, certainly for Christians, our faith compels us directly from the words of Jesus to invest in the ‘least of these.’ (Matthew 25)


On this Giving Tuesday*, I would like to ask you to consider responding in two ways:

  • First, are you a part of a church or faith community that Better Life could meet with and help train and resource as a welcoming and supportive community for healthy reintegration? Email adam.betterlife@gmail.com to start the conversation.

  • Second, will you consider being a financial supporter of Better Life through regular giving or a one-time gift?

Your financial contribution will enable Better Life to continue to provide training, resourcing and support to church and faith communities so that their doors are opened and their mentors and volunteers are prepared to provide a life-changing experience for a parolee.

With thanks,

Adam Wiggins

Executive Director




*"GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. GivingTuesday was founded in 2013 in Canada by CanadaHelps.org, GIV3 and several other founding partners."—from GivingTuesday.org

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