ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Budget cutting by Missouri’s governor eliminated funding for every organization helping incarcerated individuals. One of those groups, Criminal Justice Ministry or CJM, lost the $150 thousand a year it gets from the state, but CJM executive director Anthony D’Agnostino says they actually save taxpayers far more than that. In fact, UMSL conducted an independent review of people who’ve gone through the CJM program over the past decade.
“22.6 percent of those individuals went back in to the prison system. On a state level it’s close to 50 percent, and on a national level it’s 60 percent,” he says.
D’Agostino says they do get hate mail from people who don’t feel the people they serve deserve any help at all.
“The option of not dealing with this problem does not make the problem go away,” he says. “And it’s also, on a moral level, we believe, inhumane. Everyone has human dignity, that’s the ministry piece that we believe in.”
CJM helps people in prison with tutoring, classes and emotional support, and on the outside, they get a backpack with toiletries and clothes. And then there’s the 12-month intensive housing program.
“We find them a place to live, we try to help them find employment, we try to help them deal with the issues that they’re dealing with: mental health issues, substance abuse. 90 percent of the people who come to us have a substance abuse history. To deal with all these issues, anger management, everything else, we monitor and help them them 24/7,” D’Agostino says.
Criminal Justice Ministry was founded in 1979 by the St. Louis archdiocese but is now independent. Archbishop Carlson will be the keynote speaker at CJM’s upcoming fundraising dinner.