Shame and stigma are difficult barriers for juvenile offenders to rise above after an arrest or in making the transition between incarceration and the community. Some of those barriers are juvenile peers that have pro-criminal attitudes and reinforce the criminal behavior/thinking as well as there being no clear pathway from juvenile criminal behavior to responsible, pro-social behaviors as an adult.
One effective approach to rising above this stigma involves encouraging ex-offenders to become active as a volunteer in support of community activities. Providing an opportunity for individuals to make a positive contribution to the community – to “give back” – may reduce feelings of alienation and build empathy and positive self-regard, paving the way to a life that has been restored.
If you serve in ministry, there are youth all around you that are engaged in criminal behaviors. Regardless of the reasons for their behaviors, we are called to “put on the flesh of Christ” and pursue them.
How might your ministry create opportunities that could lead to restoration for these youth between themselves, their communities, and God?