Yesterday on the front page of the Roanoke Times was an article on jail ministry in the Roanoke Valley. There was a picture of Dan Netting who is the full-time pastor of First Christian Church Disciples of Christ in Salem and a part time minister for the Roanoke County and regional jails. I have heard Dan speak and he is a very interesting person and speaker. His ministry not only helps inmates now, but can help inmates when they leave the jail facility and transition back into society. This is particularly important since convicted criminals are serving longer sentences than they were a decade ago.
Parole was abolished in Virginia in the 90s so for those who were sentenced for offenses after the abolition there is no early release on parole. In Virginia Courts, an inmate convicted of a felony will now typically serve 85% of the sentence imposed. Before the sentencing reform it was not uncommon for a person to serve less than two years of a ten year sentence before being released on parole.
People can certainly disagree on whether criminals should be incarcerated for longer or shorter periods of time. Most people would agree that regardless of how much time a conviced criminal serves it is important that when released they not reoffend. The jail ministry may not be a complete solution but can help fill a need that will benefit society as a whole.