Baptist Judge Encourages Partnerships With Faith-Based Programs in Court System of Probations

Judge Rachel Bringer-Shepherd is not opposed to including faith-based programs in the options for those appearing in her court on felony probation.

In fact, she encourages that participation.

“We have a lot of partnerships with churches and faith-based organizations in the court system of probations,” said the 10th Circuit Judge, who is a member of South Union Baptist in Maywood, Mo. “We hope these help the people to be successful in their probation sentences. Part of the law days are bringing felony probations [to programs] while the defendants are waiting on a court hearing.”

The majority of those appearing face charges involving intoxicating substances, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, alcohol and synthetic intoxicants. “All those on felony probation,” she noted, “are required to have a substance use assessment and need not only treatment but are required to participate in community sobriety groups of various denominations, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Addicts Victorious, Faithwalk, Celebrate Recovery, Victory in Jesus, and men’s and women’s sober-living Bible studies.”

One example of such a partnership involves pastor Roger Carter of Calvary Baptist in Hannibal, who hosts sobriety meetings during law days at the courthouse until those on probation are called before the judge.

“We have courthouses in Hannibal and New London and sometimes in Palmyra. We have several (participating) ministers in our circuit,” said Bringer-Shepherd.

“One local court rule I made in 2011 is an automatic 48-hour jail ‘shock’ detention for those who violate probation with alcohol or drug use,” she said. “But they can get credit for shock time by going to Alcoholics Anonymous, or weekend retreats, such as Cursillo (Catholic program), Walk to Emmaus (Protestant program), or some other faith-based programs. The faith based programs count towards the ‘shock time’ credit.”

Bringer-Shepherd said one reason to include faith-based resources is to “help individuals ready to make a change in their lives or required by probation terms. It is to make them better people, better parents.”

Sometimes the role of the faith-based community is to help sponsor community service programs, she noted.

“A church may need help with a food pantry, or help cleaning churches, or helping maintain a church cemetery,” she said. “Maybe they help at Loaves and Fishes (food program) or the Serenity Club. We have good partnerships. We’re very blessed to have so many resources in our area. There are many, many hands reaching out to help.”

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Source: Baptist Press