Prisons Reopen to Ministry with Recent Visits from Lecrae and Justin Bieber

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Prison Fellowship’s “Second Chance Month” corresponds with easing of pandemic restrictions at many facilities.

In early April, Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae visited a South Carolina prison, performed six songs and testified about his faith.

Fifteen months ago, the event would have been almost unremarkable, but since then, COVID-19 restrictions have prevented Lecrae from “hanging out” with prisoners, as he had previously done with less social distance after a performance hosted by Prison Fellowship.

“We sometimes do it outside the security fence line and maintain that separation with the men or women on the inside,” said Prison Fellowship President James Ackerman, describing a “Hope Event” the ministry held at a correctional facility in Alabama in September.

Lecrae’s visit this month was a sign that some prisons have begun permitting more in-person religious activities.

“As conditions have improved state by state, some correctional facilities and prisons are opening back up for visitors and ministry purposes,” Jim Forbes, communications director of Prison Fellowship, said in a statement to Religion News Service.

That comes as Prison Fellowship—the largest US nonprofit serving incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated people and their families—celebrates Second Chance Month, aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties faced by people with a criminal record.

The virus has spread through correctional facilities, where social distancing is often not an option, infecting prisoners at a rate three times that of Americans outside prison walls, according to a recent report by The New York Times.

Over the past year, nearly all state-run facilities temporarily have halted outside visitors to help slow that spread, according to Prison Fellowship’s website.

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