Prison Ministry

The Ursuline Sisters’ Prison Ministry serves the spiritual and religious needs of Catholic inmates in the prisons of the Mahoning Valley, as well as other inmates seeking to know about the Catholic faith and way of life.

The Pew Charitable Trust recently released a study of U.S. incarceration statistics. There are more people in U.S. prisons and jails than ever before.

The United States continues to incarcerate more people, and a higher percentage of its population, than any other nation on Earth. Incarceration statistics have swelled enormously since the 1970s, when approximately 500,000 served time in the U.S. — roughly the same rate as other western countries. However, with mandatory sentencing, the war on drugs and rapid prison construction, the picture has changed dramatically. According to research, 2,319,258 adults were incarcerated at the beginning of 2008. When you include the 350,000 children under 18 serving time in juvenile detention centers and prisons, the figure is estimated to exceed 2.66 million American people in prison at any one time.

In general, more than 1 in every 100 American adults is in prison or jail on any given day.
Demographic details of incarceration rates include the following:

  • White men ages 18 or older                         1 in 106
  • All men ages 18 or older                              1 in 54
  • Hispanic men ages 18 or older                     1 in 36
  • Black men ages 18 or older                         1 in 15
  • Black men ages 20-34                                1 in 9
  • White women ages 35-39                            1 in 355
  • Hispanic women ages 35-39                        1 in 297
  • All women ages 35-39                                 1 in 265
  • Black women ages 35-39                            1 in 100

As prison populations escalate, so do staggering incarceration costs. As a nation, we are spending almost 50 billion dollars a year to incarcerate adults at an average cost of $23,876 per inmate. According to the Pew Charitable Trust study, 13 states spend more than $1 billion a year, including California which spent $8.8 billion last year. Healthcare accounts for a rapidly growing share of the costs as imprisoned people tend to be sickly, diseases spread easily in crowded quarters and those who are aging behind bars require expensive geriatric care.

As budget deficits continue to balloon, lawmakers are considering: 1.) the reexamination of mandatory sentencing laws; 2.) alternatives to incarceration in some cases; 3.) early release for non-violent criminals; and 4) initiating such preventive measures as in investing more money in education.

This is why it is so important to have prison ministries.

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