In April of 2013 while at the Alaska Ministry Network Conference in Anchorage I had a discussion with Reverend Jim Duncan, the statewide chaplaincy coordinator for the Department of Corrections. The state was preparing to open the newly built Goose Creek Correction Center which would eventually house over 1,500 inmates, most of whom would be transferred back to Alaska from a private prison out of state.
This move provided an incredible opportunity for ministry and Chaplain Duncan was looking to recruit. I had been coordinating Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University in churches and the Mat-Su community since 2007 and have seen over 200 people be a part of the class. I’ve always had a desire to see the class conducted in a correctional facility but the right door had never open before.
In July of 2013 I began coordinating my first Financial Peace class at Goose Creek. Dave Ramsey is the leading teacher of personal financial management and hosts the 3rd most listened to talk radio show in America. The Financial Peace class teaches the basics of money management, including getting on a budget, saving for the future, getting out of debt and investing for retirement.
We know that 94% of all inmates incarcerated today will eventually be released, with most inmates serving less than 5 years. The tragedy is that 66% of those released will reoffend and be back in jail within two years. While there are many things that contribute to the recidivism rate, the inability to handle money is one of them.
Financial Peace University is a faith based video curriculum. A key part of the class is the workbook that each student is required to have. Initially I had no idea how I was going to cover the $22 per workbook cost, so I turned to social media. A blog post and a few Facebook posts later and I had a wide range of people and churches donate enough to cover workbooks for my first class, plus the next one. Since then I have a few regular donors continue to make tax-deductible contributions through the Alaska Ministry Network for purchasing the workbooks. I am incredibly grateful to the Alaska Ministry Network for their support in these ministry efforts.
To date I’ve had 109 inmates complete the 12 week course with 15 inmates enrolled in my 7th class. Originally the class was only available to inmates in the Faith Wing program, but is now open to all inmates in general population. Classes are held on Friday afternoons for 12 weeks. I am grateful that my boss allows me to work longer days Monday through Thursday and then leave early on Friday to head to the prison.
In addition to Financial Peace University I’m also the service host for the Friday night God Behind Bars video service. This service uses a video service provided by Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada to present a worship time and preaching. We see between 60 an 100 inmates attend this service each week.
In December an inmate inquired about getting a bible. The supply in the chaplain’s office had ran out and he was looking to get a New Living Translation. It being just prior to the Christmas season, I knew I’d be putting in an Amazon order and saw that for less than $4 per bible I could add them to my order with the free shipping. Thinking that others might be interesting in doing the same thing, I threw out a challenge on social media, hoping to get 30 or 40 bibles. Within a few weeks I had 288 bibles donated, providing access to the Word of God to those who are seeking.
God is moving among the men at Goose Creek. We are seeing salvations, baptisms and the inmates growing in their walks with Christ. The inmate population at Goose Creek represent every region and many villages of Alaska. It’s my prayer that as they return home, they will carry that fire of revival back with them.