Upper Sand Mountain Parish Director among presenters at briefing on Capitol Hill


WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Alabama's Tayna Rains was among the leaders representing diverse faith traditions from eight states who took part in a briefing on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, to underscore the importance of reentry programming for women and men following incarceration.

The luncheon briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill was hosted by the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society in collaboration with the Faith in Action Working Group, and the offices of Senators. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont.), and Rob Portman, (R-Ohio). The Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2011, recently introduced by Leahy and Portman, was the focus of the briefing.

Rains says, "It was a really wonderful opportunity to be invited by the General Board to speak on a panel in Washington, D.C., about the issues Alabama has with its criminal justice/ reentry system. "

The Second Chance Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law in April 2007. Since then, 250 grants have been awarded to community and faith-based organizations, and to state, local and tribal governments spanning almost every state in the nation. The grants have improved public safety and reduced recidivism by helping formerly incarcerated persons reintegrate into their communities.

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act (S.1231), according to its sponsors, will increase public safety and strengthen families by consolidating grants, make reentry programs more efficient and accountable, and provide returning persons additional incentives to participate in rigorous recidivism reduction programs.

The sponsors say their bill also will reduce overcrowding and costs within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that in 2006, federal, state and local governments spent approximately $68 billion on corrections. Furthermore, in some states, criminal justice spending outpaces spending on higher education.

The briefing covered an overview of reentry issues, first-hand accounts from religious leaders who direct reentry programs, and information on the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2011.

Three United Methodists are among the briefing’s presenters. Presenters included the following:

  • Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship. He leads the organization’s Justice Fellowship that advocates for reforms based on the principles of restorative justice. He has been instrumental in building both legislative and grassroots support to win passage of key federal legislation.
  • Tayna Rains, director of Upper Sand Mountain Parish of Sylvania, Ala.. She directs a cooperative ministry of eight rural United Methodist churches serving nearly 1,000 square miles of Southern Appalachian Alabama.
  • The Rev. Dr. Stan Basler, director of Criminal Justice & Mercy Ministries of the Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church. He directs statewide reentry ministries and is a member of the Oklahoma County Community Corrections Planning Council.
  • The Rev. Abraham Funchess, executive director, Waterloo (Iowa) Commission on Human Rights (WCHR) and pastor of Jubilee United Methodist Church. He serves as chair of the Religious Affairs Committee, Black Hawk County NAACP, and previously worked with the Commission on the Status of African Americans for the State Dept. of Human Rights in Des Moines.
  • The Rev. Dr. Amanda Ducksworth, former coordinator of the Pastoral Care Department at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala. She serves as senior pastor and project director of Columbus Fellowship Church Community Outreach in Columbus, Mississippi. The outreach ministry provides educational and health-care resources to the rural communities in Mississippi. She hosted the first Statewide Women's Conference on Health at Mississippi University for Women in 2009.
  • The Rev. Nelson Johnson, executive director, Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, N.C., and pastor of Faith Community Church. He facilitates processes of comprehensive community building that include a convergence of racial and ethnic diversity, social and economic justice, and genuine participatory democracy.
  • Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus of B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom of Homewood, Ill. She is immediate past-president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the organization of nearly 2,000 Reform rabbis in North America and around the world.
  • The Rev. Jan Olav Flaaten, executive director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council. He has served in that role for the past ten years, as a Lutheran parish pastor for 30 years, and has served on the governor’s task force for juvenile correction.
  • The Rev. Chad Golay, pastor, Assemblies of God. He ministers weekly as preacher at the Salt Lake (Utah) County Jail.

The Faith in Action Working Group consists of more than 25 national religious organizations in Washington, D.C., that advocate for an end to mass incarceration and adoption of restorative alternatives to the criminal justice system.

Besides the General Board of Church & Society, members include the National Alliance of Faith & Justice, the National Association of Evangelicals, Mennonite Central Committee, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Episcopal Church, Catholic Charities, JustPeace, Disciples of Christ, Sojourners, American Baptists, USA, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Council of Churches and World Vision.

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