Beginning Behind the Bars: Hope Beyond the Bars
Mission Behind Bars and Beyond (MB3) was conceived and incorporated as a non- profit 501(c) (3) in March of 2010 as the vision of expanding the work of Luther Luckett Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Board of Directors of Luther Luckett Christian Church, in coordination with Prison Congregations of America (PCA) realized that in order to replicate the success of various programs being conducted at that time as ministries of the church, a broader ecumenical organization would be necessary.
The work of Luther Luckett Christian Church began in 2008 as volunteers across the Commonwealth of Kentucky came together to create a congregation in the Disciples of Christ tradition inside the walls of Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky. In May, 2008, a pastor was called, Reverend Dean Bucalos, M.Div., J.D., and the mission of the church was further expanded to provide in-house counseling to the men of Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, beyond that available from the prison chaplain. The church grew and began to offer weekly church services led by the pastor or by visiting ministers and congregations from across the state.
By 2009, the mission of the church had expanded to provide life skills education inside the prison to incarcerated individuals who would return to their communities across the state. Ninety-five percent of incarcerated individuals in Kentucky will return to their communities after serving their term or being paroled. Such life skills were seen as vital to the returning citizens' ability to obtain employment, housing, and additional skills needed to successfully re-enter society.
As the work of the church progressed, it became obvious that if returning citizens were to be successful, a level of individual mentoring would be necessary. Individuals coming out of prison lack many skills including but, not limited to: good decision-making skills, trouble navigating existing re-entry resources, and personal and business skills needed to obtain and maintain employment. Consequently, a program of Nuture, Support and Accountability Groups (NSAGs) was developed based on a model being used successfully in other parts of the United States utilizing the principles of restorative justice circles. NSAGs consist of 3-6 volunteers, who receive specific training conducted and meet regularly with a returning citizen (called a core member) to help set life goals in the areas of employment, housing, education, and health. Initially, core members meet weekly, then bi-monthly or monthly with a NSAG for 6 to 12 months, or until the core member and the NSAG agrees that the NSAG can be dissolved.
The founders realized that local churches and individuals would not be able to provide enough financial support to address these goals. Therefore, in March of 2010, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond (MB3) was created as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization under which both the Life Skills and NSAGs would reside and be funded. As a faith based, but ecumenical organization, MB3 had expanded to fundraise and approach grantors. With expanded funding, MB3 was in a position would be able to consider hiring staff to oversee existing volunteers and recruit additional volunteers in outlying areas of the state.
In 2013, Luther Luckett Correctional Complex experienced a change in personnel. Its new warden no longer would permit many of the key aspects of this program to continue. Consequently, the board of Mission Behind Bars and Beyond began looking for a different venue to continue this ministry. In August of 2013, a second congregation, New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) began in The Diersen Center in Louisville, Kentucky. This facility for women who committed felonies welcomed the idea of a congregation and re-entry program. Once showing signs of success, this new congregation became the centerpiece of this ministry and program. Without the support of the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex administration, the ministry there was closed in January 2013. In 2014, New Life in Christ Christian Church was recognized by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky as a church in formation. Also in 2014, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond was recognized as an institutional partner of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky.
With a growing need for established, successful, and ongoing re-entry mentoring programs, Mission Behind Bars and Beyond continues to expand its services and is beginning to incorporate other models of mentoring into its programming.
The Mission is to educate and equip every community across the Commonwealth of Kentucky to welcome, support, mentor, and equip every returning citizens to successfully re-enter society.
The vision is clear, the mission on-going.
Mission Behind Bars and Beyond is making a safer Kentucky, one returning citizen at a time.