Dr. E. Dewey Smith, senior pastor of The House of Hope Church in Decatur, is among 14 Georgia faith leaders Governor Nathan Deal has appointed to his new Interfaith Council.
Deal said the new council will work to identify areas in which faith-based ministries, private organizations and state agencies can partner to address prisoner re-entry into society. The members on the council, Deal said, have extensive experience in prison ministry and social justice initiatives.
“Faith communities and religious leaders are critical to ensuring the success of our criminal justice reform initiatives,” Deal said. “On any given day, their houses of worship minister to prisoners, give comfort to family members and provide assistance to returning citizens. These council members are on the front lines in Georgia communities, and their perspective and experience are invaluable. I’m grateful for their willingness to serve.”
Deal selected members for the council after spending several months traveling to churches and asking for feedback on criminal justice reform initiatives. Some of the churches he visited have had prison ministry programs that have been in place for decades. These houses of worship minister in prisons, assist prisoners upon their release, and have seen first-hand some of the challenges that returning citizens face because many people are more comfortable speaking to their church pastor or prison minister about the challenges they face, instead of a stage agency.
The governor plans to hold the first meeting with the Interfaith Council sometimes in May, his aides said. The council will meet with the governor, the Criminal Justice Reform Council, commissioners and state agency heads to identify how re-entry areas may be improved.