Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Prison bars

Blog: For ex-prisoners, revolving door ends here

Added on Monday, May 1, 2017

Written by John Hulteen (pictured below), prison chaplain for The Salvation Army Northern Division

Chaplain John Hulteen leads VASTMen and women released from state and federal prisons in Minnesota face challenges that can make reintegration almost impossible.

Their two biggest obstacles are housing and employment. Both are tough for ex-offenders to obtain because most landlords and employers won’t give them a chance.

Without a job and a home, thousands of ex-offenders land right back in Minnesota jails and prisons. Consider the following numbers, offered by the Minnesota Department of Corrections:

  • About 10,000 people are currently incarcerated within MN DOC facilities
  • In 2017, approximately 8,000 will be released from prison and 8,000 will be sent in
  • Of the 8,000 sent in, almost half will eventually return due to parole violations

As taxpayers, we are impacted by these numbers directly: The average annual cost per inmate in Minnesota’s prison system is more than $41,000, according to a 2010 study by the Vera Institute of Justice.

VAST-mentor-300x200Thankfully, The Salvation Army is taking action. Our Correctional Services Team is actively supporting ex-offenders through a special program we created, called the Volunteer Aftercare Support Team (VAST).

In the past year, VAST has helped dozens of ex-offenders find jobs and housing by providing:

  • One-on-one mentoring
  • Job coaching
  • Weekly support groups

VAST MeetingVAST also offers basic needs items such as food, clothing, and bus tokens. The program is operated almost exclusively by volunteers.

VAST meetings (pictured right) are held Thursday nights at The Salvation Army in North Minneapolis, where as many 65 staff, volunteers, and ex-offenders show up to engage in an evening of support and encouragement.

In this setting, people are loved. We demonstrate to ex-offenders that they are valuable and capable, and that they are cherished by God more than they can believe.

VAST jobVAST is such an important program. It provides ex-offenders with the spiritual and practical resources they need to lead positive, productive lives. Read an in-depth story about VAST.

If you or someone you know may be interested in being trained to serve as a VAST mentor or job coach, please call 612-968-6756 or send an email to john_hulteen@usc.salvationarmy.org.