Stopping the Patterns of Incarceration

October 11, 2021


YFC Juvenile Justice Ministry ‘Shows Jesus Behind Locked Doors’

Recent studies indicate that almost 60,000 youth under the age of 18 are incarcerated in America in over 1,000 different juvenile detention centers. While the number of youth arrests has receded in the past 20 years, the amount of Americans under the age of 18 who are placed in juvenile detention centers is staggering. Despite research stating that putting youth in confinement actually results in a 33% higher likelihood that the individual is more likely to repeat their offense, governmental systems continue to funnel troubled teens to detention centers.

Youth For Christ is well aware of the gap in the system regarding juvenile justice and is determined to build relationships with justice-involved youth. Juvenile Justice Ministry Director (in Peoria, Il.) CJ Fisher and the rest of the YFC Juvenile Justice Ministry team are striving to reach youth that are stuck in the system and struggling with hope. “I think when we think about the justice system, we always think of the adult system,” Fisher commented. “We often miss out on the fact that we have kids that are going through the system because of their parents or communities. It’s a cycle—the parents are in the system, then the children, who then grow up to have kids that most likely will be in the system.

“It’s really evident that there’s a huge need for YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry when you walk into a facility and you see a ten-year old behind glass.”

Coming alongside youth in a variety of juvenile justice settings—including detention centers, correctional facilities, group homes, residential treatment centers or emergency shelters—YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry attempts to connect with these individuals and build meaningful relationships, all while pointing them to Christ. Fisher commented, “So many kids are wary of us when we first come in, but we genuinely want to connect with them, and eventually they can tell that we are different. We tell them, ‘We’ll provide you with services, but more so than that, we want to give you hope. And that hope is found in Jesus Christ.’ That’s what makes this ministry so special—we get to show them Jesus behind locked doors.”

Jacob Bland, president and CEO of YFC, stated, “There is a lack of awareness and misconceptions around the Juvenile Justice System. Young people in the Juvenile Justice System often feel overlooked, and it’s our passion to make them feel seen, heard, and valued. Juvenile Justice Ministry leaders aim to be a steady voice and presence in their lives, intentionally postured as humble and authentic mentors.

“Many of the teenagers we meet face adverse situations such as relational trauma, racial trauma, community violence, and lack of access to basic needs. It is during these moments of crisis that our leaders invest in reciprocal trusted friendships with our young people, who are facing pivotal life challenges. We ultimately build relationships with young people to introduce them to Christ and uncover God’s story of Hope in their lives.”