Church member volunteers are working with Nebraska prisoners to help them find positive new lives.
“It’s a big deal,” said state Sen. Suzanne Geist, who sits on the oversight committee that monitors the Department of Corrections.
“What we’re talking about is getting local churches and people who are really passionate about walking with the people involved. Since we’re charged biblically to care for those who are hurting, we think the most common sense place to come around those who are hurting is in the church.”
The project called Master Trauma Foundation seeks to focus on prisoners’ traumatic experiences to help them restore their lives, The Associated Press reported Sept. 29, 2021.
Most people in prison were exposed to danger or life-threating situations and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, said Scott Carlson, a certified trauma specialist and founder of Master Trauma Foundation.
“Helping someone in a correctional facility is long-term,” said Geist, at a gathering about the program. “It requires passion, it requires patience, and it’s not for everybody.”
The gathering hosted 50 people in Kearney to discuss ways to undo the harm that individuals go through in the state’s overcrowded prisons.
Carlson introduced three formerly incarcerated men at the gathering to share their personal stories of abusive parents, addiction and life in prison.
The men said the current prison rehabilitative programs are ineffective because a lot of the prisoners fear that they would be seen as cooperating with authorities if they participated in programs.
“Fake it until you make it,” said Cory, one of the speakers, who didn’t want to use his last name, on trying to survive prison life. “You will receive a lot of punishment if you don’t go along with them.”
Matt, another speaker, shared how prison made him worse and caused his PTSD. The prisoners run the prison and not the guards, said Matt. If you don’t fall in line, they’ll make you suffer, he added.
“Crisis mode is surviving a 900-man riot in prison,” said Matt, who is now wary around large groups of people. “Prison made me a worse person than when I went in.”
Matt added that he prefers to sit near exit doors in case he panics and has to leave.
Since the men returned home, the trauma continues as they feel shunned by society while they are working through their issues and seeking a second chance.
“Give us an opportunity to see how we should be,” said Cory, “The general community sees us as throwaways.”
The foundation has raised $50,000 for its program, while the state has allotted $230 million for building a prison to deal with overcrowding.
Prisons are toxic places, said Carlson. The program will help prisoners transition to a more normal life, noted the article.
“The issue of prison overcrowding has been in the press,” said Geist. “What we’re looking at is a way to help people transition out of prison in a successful way. So this is a way of taking the overcrowding problem and bringing some unique solution to it.