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Prison Ministries

Ascension has hosted several ministries recently, until COVID-19 put them on hiatus for an indefinite time. They include:

  • SMART, a local association of agencies working on reentry issues

  • "The Landing Strip", a part of the Alternatives to Violence program run by the Quakers for released prisoners

  • Cephas of Western N.Y., a program going into the State Prisons


Rochester Interfaith Jail Ministries, Inc.

Ascension is the home of Rochester Interfaith Jail Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit charitable corporation. The work we do follows Four Spiritual Truths:

  • Every inmate and prisoner is loved and lovable

  • Every person is deserving of respect and acceptance

  • Our true nature is fundamentally good and beautiful

  • We are all needed in helping to heal our world

Our mission is to bring this message to those whose lives are telling them otherwise. This is our calling.


Our History

Rochester Interfaith Jail Ministry was started in 1971 as an outreach of the Rochester Council of Churches. As the jails evolved and their needs changed, R.I.J.M. moved from serving as a ministerial resource to a missional project, bringing value to the inmates.

Our Program

We run our groups like a college seminar. The textbook is “Houses of Healing” by Robin Casarjian. Groups run 7–12 weeks, depending on the needs of the facility. Each inmate receives a copy of the text and a workbook, and is expected to read the assignments in them to prepare for each class. We watch a video made by Ms. Casarjian in a Massachusetts Prison and discuss. The program helps the students be aware of the foundations of their issues, to work on them and be more prepared to participate in society.

Our Community Activity

  • RIJM is a member of SMART (Safer Monroe Area Reentry Team) whose members offer help to people recovering from incarceration. (This agency is transitioning to become RAWNY)

  • Ascension offers former prisoners, their families, and friends a place to meet to deal with issues related to the Justice System.

  • We send a representative to the County Criminal Justice Council Meetings.

  • We offer a “Welcome Home” gift to be distributed by the State Parole office, containing toiletries for releasees. (They get food stamps, but any public assistance goes to their landlords.)

  • We staff a table at the Parole “New Releasee Orientation.”

  • Ascension/R.I.J.M. is an associated group of Kairos, an international prison visitation program.

  • Ascension is an associated parish with the Episcopal Diocese of Florida’s prison ministry.

  • Ascension is a member of Diocese of Rochester Prison Ministry Committee.

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