Prison Reform Begins Outside

Posted on June 23, 2011


Hope also served at barbecue
By Mechele Cooper
Staff Writer
MANCHESTER — Only a couple of families with loved ones in prison accepted an invitation to a Sunday barbecue at the North Manchester Meeting House.

Pastor Stan Moody greets Michelle Robbins following Sunday service at the North Manchester Meeting House. Moody spoke about serving as the chaplain at the Maine State Prison and welcomed the families of inmates to attend the service and a barbecue afterward. Robbins said she has a child who served in jail and her husband works as a corrections officer for the state.

Stan Moody, a prison reform advocate, wanted to recognize the families during his Sunday service at the meeting house and pray for prisoners and those on probation, along with their victims.

He then wanted to treat the families to a meal at the old rural church surrounded by woods on Scribner Hill Road.

“We’ll just keep plugging away at it,” Moody said Sunday. “We’ll just have to do more advertising.”

About 25 parishioners attended the service and barbecue.

A mother of a prisoner, who doesn’t live in Maine and wanted to remain anonymous — her son is in jail awaiting trial — said she reached out for help on the Internet and found the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition.

She said the tragedy of her son’s action affected the whole family and they needed help dealing with the situation.
“We don’t know anyone in Maine, and being from out of state it was the first step for us for moral support and hope,” she said.
The coalition helped her get in touch with Moody, she said and that’s how she found out about Sunday’s service and barbecue.
“Children make mistakes in their lives,” she added. “But big or small, a parent’s love never goes away whatever the circumstances.”

Sharril Saunders of Solon ministers to prisoners. Her husband, Alfred, has been in prison 25 years for murder serving out a 50-year sentence. She ministered for the Maine State Prison and currently Somerset County jail.

The importance of outreach programs like the Rev. Moody’s means “absolutely everything” to prisoners and their families, she said.
Saunders said more churches need to get involved and reach out to prisoners and their families. She thought Moody’s invitation to families on Fathers Day was “an awesome idea.”

“There’s so many fathers incarcerated,” Saunders said. “Sitting in congregations around the country are women and children with broken hearts. I know one young woman with a couple of children whose son murdered somebody and she had to move and change her name because of the brutality of society. There’s hundreds of stories out there just like that.”

Moody said society isolates prisoners and their families. Often relatives of the convicted are seen as co-conspirators in whatever crime has been committed.

He said they need healing and they’re not going to get it from the Maine Department of Corrections.

“They don’t even have money for a reentry program,” Moody said. “You have to prepare these guys to enter society and it has to start in prison. You need mental health workers and people to provide housing and jobs but we can’t seem to pull it together. We need to train people to help these people so they can fit into society and be successful.”

Moody, a former chaplain of the Maine State Prison in Warren and a former state representative, said two-thirds of Maine prisoners, or 58 percent, are repeat offenders.

Every time we send back one to prison it costs us $50,000,” he said. “This touches everyone and the public is not aware of it. Maine has the lowest incarceration rate in the country with 4,000 prisoners, but there are 2.3 million in the nation and eight or 10 million on parole or probation.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663