'God Is Still Writing Their Story': Youth for Christ Seeks to Break the Cycle of Incarceration of At-Risk Youth

Milton Quintanilla | Contributor for ChristianHeadlines.com | Friday, November 19, 2021
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'God Is Still Writing Their Story': Youth for Christ Seeks to Break the Cycle of Incarceration of At-Risk Youth


A well-known youth ministry organization is stepping up to help break the cycle of youth incarceration seen across generations.

Chelsie Coleman, the new head of the Denver-based Youth for Christ's National Juvenile Justice Ministry, recently sat down with The Christian Post to speak on the perpetual cycle of youth incarceration.

"Parents who have faced trauma are often in a cycle, and this pattern is perpetuated in a multigenerational way," she told the outlet in a recent interview.

"Kids who get involved in incarceration are usually not in jail due to a crime issue, but it's a trauma and poverty issue, and they often end up stuck in a cycle of incarceration," she added.

Coleman also noted that the issue is often compounded by a shortage of "adequate educational services" and "food security," issues that lead at-risk children into a sort of "survival mode."

"Risk factors, trauma, neglect and abuse are all cyclical in many of these incarcerated children's lives," she said. "I think what we are seeing is a cycle of generational trauma."

According to research, pretrial youth confinement increases the odds of felony recidivism by 33 percent. In several states, Coleman noted that 80 percent of young people are rearrested within three years of their release from a previous incarceration.

"Even with those statistics, governmental systems continue to put adolescents in detention centers," she said.

Coleman contended that the system can pose an issue to the rehabilitation of youth because it is "more punishment-oriented instead of restorative-oriented."

"A lot of kids have substance abuse issues and trauma, and the response isn't usually to deal with the root cause," she said. "But instead, the educational services, probation sanctions and court sanctions can set kids up for failure."

As someone who's had her own family members incarcerated, Coleman hopes to help youth come to know Jesus Christ and remind them that they are loved, regardless of their past.

"We want them to show up and be fully themselves and who Christ wants them to be because a lot of these youth face shame and embarrassment because of what they have done and things they have faced," she said. "We want to help them to know that God is still writing their story.

"This isn't the end, and Jesus can enter into their pain. And we want them to discover, in their time, that they are not defined by shame or embarrassment, but they can be love, and they are loved," she asserted.

Youth for Christ, a national parachurch ministry organization founded in the 1940s, works with local churches to help raise the next generation of Christ-followers. According to the ministry's website, Youth for Christ seeks to reach youth in the juvenile justice system who often "feel overlooked."

The ministry staff has served youth in various juvenile justice settings, including detention centers, correctional facilities, group homes, residential treatment centers, probation and more.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Caspar Benson


Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.