In the next few years many Pagan groups and communities will be confronting how we receive released and reformed prisoners. How Pagans answer this question will in part define who we are, an important question.
At Paganicon this year, Morninghawk Apollo is offering a workshop/discussion on the topic. He describes it as: “Many new members coming to the Pagan community are former prison inmates who became Pagans while locked up. At many institutions, either Wicca or Asatru is the largest religious group, not counting solitary practitioners. The vast majority of these inmates will be released at the end of their sentences and wish to join the Pagan community. Statistically, if your group hasn’t been approached by an ex-con yet, it will be. Have you considered your response? What reception should we give these Pagans when they are released? Bring your thoughts, fears, and ideas for a lively discussion of this important topic. “
Morninghawk has been offering prison ministry with his wife since 2004. He took a three-year break in the middle, and is back serving two Moose Lake, MN facilities. The Minnesota State Correctional Facility (MCF Moose Lake) is a regular prison and has inmates, called “offenders,” who wear uniform clothing. The Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) is a post-sentence medical treatment facility that houses inmates, called “clients,” who wear whatever they want within reason. Many inmates convicted of certain sexual offenses are civilly committed by the court to the MSOP program after completing their MCF prison sentence. Both are secure facilities, and look like prisons when you drive up.
I talked to Morninghawk about his work:
What are the facilities you minister to?
Morninghawk: At the MCF is a level three medium security facility, meaning many have served their “hard time” at a facility like Stillwater or Oak Park Heights. They are generally on their way to release in the next five years. At MSOP, there is no defined release time. If they graduate from this program, they are transferred to the MSOP program in St.Peter, MN. If they graduate from that program they may be released to society from there. In the seventeen years the program has been running, only one client has been released from St. Peter, just this past year. Both facilities are all men.