Deacon Thomas Mannschreck, director of Prison Outreach, visits a Boise prison. (ICR photo)
By Emily Woodham
The Diocese of Boise Prison Outreach is once again serving all correctional facilities in the State of Idaho. The COVID pandemic halted the ministry for nearly two years, from 2020 to 2022.
“Slowly but surely, we are adding volunteers,” said Deacon Mark Geraty, volunteer coordinator for Prison Outreach. “We are getting volunteers to independent status, which means they’ve had at least 24 hours of volunteer service inside the prison. Before that, they must be accompanied by an experienced volunteer.”
Volunteers include laypeople, priests and deacons who minister in about 13 prisons that house more than 8,000 incarcerated men, women and young people. They lead scripture studies, catechetical programs, prayer, Mass and Reconciliation. When priests are not available, Communion services are offered by deacons. The ministry hopes to add Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) classes soon, Deacon Geraty said.
Volunteers serve as far north as Orofino and Cottonwood, south of Boise, west to Nampa and Caldwell and east to Pocatello and St. Anthony. “We also have responsibility for incarcerated men from Idaho being housed in the Arizona Department of Corrections,” Deacon Geraty said.
More than 90 percent of persons serving time in prison will be released, according to the Idaho Statistical Analysis Center, said Geraty. About 40 percent of those released are likely to be charged with a new crime within three years.
“What is a demonstrable, incontrovertible element in a meaningful reduction of recidivism is a genuine and sincere connection to a community of people with built-in accountability standards,” Geraty explained. To help build those connections, Deacon Geraty is
requesting that subscriptions of the Idaho Catholic Register be donated to prison residents.
“Getting the Idaho Catholic Register in front of people in prison is an important first step, right along with volunteers behind the walls who bring the light of the gospel right into a place that needs it most.”
To help with this effort, Communications Director and Editor of the ICR, Deacon Scott Pearhill, has added a prison donation button to the ICR subscription page on the Diocese website. If writing a check, simply note in the memo portion: “Prison Subscription.”
For more information about the Diocesan prison ministry, visit catholicidaho.org/prison-ministry.
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