Wichita Kansas Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts opened a statewide conference on prison ministry by encouraging religious volunteers to increase their efforts to help offenders stay out of prison.
"I think the volunteers are in a particularly good role or good position to carry that out," he said. "They are in a unique position to kind of reach beyond the bounds of a prison cell and ignite an inmate's or an offender's will to turn their life around."
The Wichita Eagle reported that Roberts gave the keynote address Monday at the opening of the "Out for Life," conference in Wichita. The conference is organized by Prison Fellowship, a nationwide group that promotes ministry in prisons and church support for offenders after their release.
Roberts said efforts like those of Prison Fellowship have had an impact in Kansas and he would like to see them expand under Gov. Sam Brownback, who has a strong interest in partnering with faith-based groups in several areas of government service. Brownback was also scheduled to address the conference later Monday.
"Even though we're in a hard patch financially, we're not going to let budget restraints create an opportunity for us to stop moving in the direction we need to move," Roberts said.
Roberts called on the groups attending to form a strong coalition of volunteers across the state to provide mentoring and support services to smooth inmates' re-entry process and reduce recidivism.
He said his staff would help conference attendees to brainstorm ideas for future programs.
"Together we can and will make a long-lasting difference, not only in our communities but for the greater good of our society as a whole," he said.