Prison Fellowship Has Provided More Than A Million Bibles Since 2019


Anyone working in prison ministry has heard the testimonies of men and women who came to faith in Christ while reading Scripture alone in their cells. Prison Fellowship has been hearing many more of these testimonies since it launched a program to distribute more Bibles, books and other resources.

“Prior to 2019, Prison Fellowship distributed an average of 5,000-6,000 Bibles annually,” said spokesman Jim Forbes. “Since then, we have sent an average of more than 250,000 Bibles each year. This dramatic increase in requests for Bibles continues today.”

A Prison Fellowship survey of prison chaplains found that most prisoners do not have easy access to their own Bible. Prisons and jails typically reject parcels mailed from individuals or unknown organizations, and when Bibles are available, they may be too difficult to read — either because of font sizes that are too small for aging prison populations or because half of the adults incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons cannot read or write and have less than an eighth-grade education.

Prison Fellowship’s simple but practical solution was to create an online store for prison chaplains called The Storehouse. Chaplains who register on the site can order Bibles, books, DVDs and other resources for free.

Among the offerings are large-print versions of their Life Recovery Bible in both English and Spanish. “We chose the Life Recovery Bible because it provides additional content and context for those who suffer with addictions of any sort,” said Forbes. Braille Bibles are available for blind prisoners.

Every year, Prison Fellowship also distributes a million copies of its quarterly newspaper, Inside Journal, to 900 facilities in 50 states. Launched in 1990, the paper includes articles on parenting, conflict resolution, trauma and addiction, along with a gospel presentation and stories of prisoners whose lives have been transformed through Christ. Readers can request a Life Recovery Bible that will be sent to them directly. The paper costs about 65 cents a copy to publish and ship.

In 2018, Prison Fellowship established a partnership with Tyndale House Publishers, which has sold three million copies of the Life Recovery Bible. The Life Recovery Bible is Tyndale’s number-one-selling recovery Bible with more than 3 million copies in print.

Since 2016, Prison Fellowship has also made the ZonderKidz Adventure Bible available free for all children participating in its Prison Fellowship Angel Tree program, which provides gifts to children of prisoners. Additional Bibles are made available to preteens and teens who attend Angel Tree Camping and Angel Tree Sports Camps.

“The demand right now is unlike anything we have ever seen,” said CEO James Ackerman in a May Bible fundraising appeal. “There is nothing short of a revival happening behind prison walls.”

Prison Fellowship was founded by Charles Colson, who was Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man” and “evil genius” and the first aide imprisoned for Watergate-related crimes. He came to faith in Christ after reading C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” 50 years ago while in prison. He was released in 1975, and the next year he founded the prison ministry. Now, it’s the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners and their families. Its annual income is $61 million.

The ministry makes three years’ worth of its 990 and audited financial reports readily available on its website. Its 2022 income was $61 million, down 1% from 2021’s $62 million. Income was $45 million in 2020.

In 2022, Prison Fellowship spent 68% of income on ministry programs and 31% on overhead. It spent more than $5 million on materials and supplies but declined to say how much it spends annually on Bibles.

The U.S. jails people at higher numbers and higher rates than any other country. The Prison Policy Initiative says more than 2 million people are serving time in America’s networks of state and federal prisons, local jails, juvenile correctional facilities, immigration detention facilities, Indian country jails, military prisons and state psychiatric hospitals.

Prison Fellowship has one star and an “A” transparency grade in the MinistryWatch database, and a donor confidence score of 82.

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