Criminal Justice Working Group

Creating Community in Prison

Bold Moves for Real Change, Spring 2016 – Used with permission from the Ministries Foundation,

To Sisters of St. Joseph Ruth Brooker, CSJ and Baya Clare, CSJ, the “dear neighbor” also lives inside prison walls and behind bars. Their work with women at the Waseca, Minnesota, federal prison connects them with some of society’s most vulnerable and isolated people. But, they tell us, the power of presence and the strength of community can be transformative.

Baya Clare, CSJ: One way I like to think of this ministry is to think about the first sisters and lace making. We’re not teaching someone how to make lace; we’re teaching them how to make a better life. But it’s kind of the same thing. How can they support themselves in some other way besides whatever they were doing that got them into prison? Sometimes that’s recog­ nizing when a relationship is unhealthy; we give them the signs of an unhealthy relationship and what a healthy relationship looks like. They don’t know that stuff. Many women got in trouble because they don’t know how to be alone, and they take up with the first slime ball that comes along. “It would be better for you to be alone than to be with some person who’s pushing you around, being mean to your kids, keep­ ing you isolated or not letting you have access to your money, we tell them.” They need instruction to do that, where to go, what to look for, and what to run away from. It’s how you make lace.

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Mission and Goals

The Criminal Justice Working Group advocates for policy which focuses on rehabilitation instead of retribution. The Criminal Justice Working Group views restorative justice as an essential component in the healing of both victim and offender.


  • Host an 11th Day Prayer for Peace for criminal justice reform
  • Participate in legislative advocacy and stay informed of local legislation on criminal justice reform
  • Connect with local leaders to host events and opportunities for others to take action

For more information contact Megan Bender at