The Criminal Justice System (CJS) Ministry of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA, is called through the gospel to foster forgiveness and compassion, liberation and justice, hope and healing, connecting the church to people affected by the criminal justice system.

We accomplish our mission of connecting the church to people affected by the CJS by…

Providing educational, informative presentations and displays where invited: Conference meetings, Social Ministry groups, Church Councils, W/ELCA, youth groups, Sunday school for adults and young people, and more. We are happy to come to your congregation or organization to help you find ways to learn, serve, and share in this ministry.

Sponsoring educational events such as “Restorative Justice: Judging Blinds, Loving Illuminates”, facilitating forum presentations at synod assemblies and congregational gatherings, sharing videos (T.O.S.S.: Take One Small Step and Ripples) and providing a collection of CJS books in our synod’s Resource Center.

Inviting congregations to participate in our Baskets of Love and Backpacks of Love initiatives to fill a basket (for adults) with basic hygiene and other supplies or backpack (with hygiene and school supplies) for those recently released from jail or prison or juvenile detention with little to no resources. This makes a great Vacation Bible School or social outreach project. Click here to download a pdf brochure about Baskets of Love.

Terri Roberts, Pastor Sadie Pounder, and Bishop Jim Dunlop pray

Terri Roberts, Pastor Sadie Pounder, and Bishop Jim Dunlop pray at the “Forgiveness and Faith” Event held at Trinity, Camp Hill.

Click here for an information sheet about Backpacks of Love.

Click here for a list of donation centers for Baskets of Love and Backpacks of Love.

Encouraging faith communities to study Hearing the Cries, an excellent study written by the Criminal Justice Task Force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and published by the ELCA as a companion resource to the Social Statement on Criminal Justice. This resource can be downloaded here or you may click here to order free copies. The only cost to you is mailing. This resource is also available in Spanish. Download a copy of the ELCA’s Social Statement on Criminal Justice by clicking here. This resource is also available in Spanish.

Connecting the church to other community initiatives such as “Healing Communities,” which trains churches to be welcoming places for those released from jail or prison. We encourage Lutheran congregations to lead a Sunday afternoon worship service in Harrisburg for Work Release men and women from Dauphin County Prison. Contact the Rev. Rochelle Lewis ( for more information.

Members of the CJSM Team with the contents of a Backpack of Love.

Members of the CJSM Team with the contents of a Backpack of Love.

The CJS Ministry also engages in a “Correspondence Ministry” to send monthly cards of encouragement to many in prison. We can help congregations participate in an “Adopt an Inmate” ministry, sending $20 per month to individuals in prison with no resources and support system.

Our committee meets monthly on the third Thursday of the month. We do not meet in the summer. You are welcome to join us! Contact Pastor Beth George (

Click here to download a one-page information sheet about our mission and programs.

Click here to download a pdf information sheet about how congregations can T.O.S.S. (Take One Small Step) to become involved with this ministry by educating others and supporting those affected by the criminal justice system.

Click here to download a pdf brochure for the Basket of Love program that you can easily print and share with your congregation or organization.

Baskets of Love

What’s New?

New CJSM Project Reaches Teens

The Criminal Justice Ministry has a new outreach project for teens located in four centers across our synod: Lancaster Co. Youth Intervention Center, ARC at Schaffner Youth Center, York Youth Development Center, and Diakon Wilderness Center. Because youth placed in these centers lack access to books and games, this is one tangible way our congregations and other groups can show love for our neighbors, especially those on the margins.

Here’s what some groups have already done:

  • Members of the Criminal Justice Ministry team donated and delivered a set of the Bluford Series of teen paperbacks to the Lancaster Youth Center and will deliver basketballs, puzzles, and books this month to Diakon Wilderness Center.
  • Zion Lutheran of Penbrook delivered backpacks and a collection of art and personal materials to ARC at Schaffner Youth Center.
  • St. John’s Lutheran of Shiremanstown delivered three portable CD players (one for each wing), family board games, puzzles, books and personal items to the York Center.

If your group is interested in helping with this important outreach, begin by contacting your nearest center or any member of our Criminal Justice System Ministry Team to find out what is needed most: Books, family board games, puzzles, art supplies, and personal hygiene items (especially ethnic hair care products) are usually the most needed items. We are happy to come talk to your congregation or group, too!

Contact Information:
Lancaster Co. Youth Intervention Center,235 Circle Ave., Lancaster , PA   17602
ARC at Schaffner Youth Center, 911 Gibson Blvd., Steelton, PA  17113
York Youth Development Center, 3564 Heindel Rd., York, PA   17402
Diakon Wilderness Center, 571 Mountain Rd., PO Box 10,  Boiling Springs, PA   17007

Click here to learn about the School to Prison Pipeline and what people of faith can do about it.


Sadie Pounder Memorial Series 2017: Helping Youth Succeed On Saturday, March 25, Marie Randal, Community Outreach Coordinator from the York Youth Development Center, addressed a group at St. Matthew, York, with inspiring stories and real-life examples of what works to help youth succeed.

Recommended Reading

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Click here for more information. Support independent booksellers and purchase the book from Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown. Click here for more information (scroll down).