A nonprofit Christian organization has begun distributing an eight-page newspaper in prisons as part of its ministry to try to help inmates live practical, constructive lives while they are incarcerated and after they are released.
"We will provide information that will make you think. Information that will make you laugh. Information that will touch you to the depths of your soul. For those of you who will be released, we hope to provide information that will help you never again set foot in prison," senior editor Craig Pruitt said in the first issue of the Inside Journal.
Charles W. Colson, who was convicted in the Watergate scandal, founded Prison Fellowship in 1976 to help prisoners, crime victims and their families.
Distribution of the first issue of the quarterly began Dec. 10 at the District-run Lorton Correctional Complex in southern Fairfax County. So far, about 70,000 of the 80,000 copies printed have been distributed in Lorton, where the paper is based, and institutions in California, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut and Indiana, Pruitt said.
A spokesman for the D.C. Department of Corrections said the publication was allowed for distribution in Lorton in recognition of Prison Fellowship's established ministry in that facility.
The paper is financed solely by donations and does not accept advertisements. Pruitt said ads are considered irrelevant to inmates' needs.
The first issue features such topics as the Angel Tree program, which provided Christmas presents to inmates' children on behalf of the inmates. It includes instructions on how to pray "a sinner's prayer" and "how to write a love letter."
A column by Colson addresses the subject of prison crowding and its effects on society. "I see the results of overcrowding in almost every prison I visit . . . . The longtimers seem withdrawn, sullen, passive," Colson writes.
Prison Fellowship also helps churches of all denominations train volunteers to communicate effectively with inmates.