Visit the imprisoned

I was in prison and you came to me.

 —Matthew 25:36

Befriend the criminal and the prisoner.

Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats reminds us that Christ is uniquely encountered in acts of love for the prisoner. Learn names, listen attentively, play games, and cultivate friendships. If encountering the prisoner has no intention of love, it is devoid of virtue. Inquire with your parish, family or friends about those of the community in prison. Write letters to such persons, visit them, and give gifts like books to read. Befriend their families and offer to provide them transport to the prison.

Support prison ministry.

Inquire at your parish how you can get involved in prison ministry. If there are no opportunities ask your fellow parishioners and search online for local programs. If none exist already, establish connections between your local parish and such ministries. Donate, volunteer, and get your friends and family involved. If you are a college student, see if you can start or participate in a campus prison ministry. Additionally, get involved in any other prison charity, such as those that give Christmas presents to children whose parents are incarcerated.

Humanize criminals.

Remember that no matter how heinous a crime, the people in prison are human beings, and have an intrinsic dignity endowed by Christ in their soul. As such, they are to be respected and loved. Keep in mind that the most hardened people, no matter if you see them behind bars or on the streets, are children of the Most High. We cannot afford to have a culture in which such persons are degraded, as we do now, where sexual abuse against them has become a tired punchline. Pray for prisoners, the families they hold dear, and the guards which keep watch.

Help pay for bail.

Bail is often difficult for a family to pay, especially for the poor. Yet, it is extremely necessary to pay it, so that the offender can continue to provide for their families. Contribute what you can to the bail payments of persons on trial. If you, your family, or your friends own a business related to these issues, create a business charity for this purpose. If you are employed by such an establishment, urge them to do likewise.

Pay for and provide legal services.

Those who cannot afford a lawyer or are unable to navigate the legal system often suffer injustice. If you are a lawyer, seek to represent those in need freely or at discounted fees. Pay for the legal needs of others. If you are responsible with the administration of justice, be merciful and forgiving