MANCHESTER – Only a couple of families with loved ones in prison accepted an invitation to a Sunday barbecue at the North Manchester Meeting House.

Stan Moody of Manchester, a Baptist minister and prison reform advocate, wanted to recognize the families during his Sunday service at the meeting house and pray for prisoners and those on probation, along with their victims.

He then wanted to treat the families to a meal at the old rural church surrounded by woods on Scribner Hill Road.

“We’ll just keep plugging away at it,” Moody said Sunday. “We’ll just have to do more advertising.”

About 25 parishioners attended the service and barbecue.

Sharril Saunders of Solon ministers to prisoners. Her husband, Alfred, has been in prison for 25 years, serving out a 50-year sentence for murder. She ministered for the Maine State Prison in Warren and now does so for inmates at the Somerset County jail.

Outreach programs such as Moody’s mean “absolutely everything” to prisoners and their families, she said.

Saunders said more churches need to get involved and reach out to prisoners and their families. She thought Moody’s invitation to families on Father’s Day was “an awesome idea.”

“There’s so many fathers incarcerated,” Saunders said. “Sitting in congregations around the country are women and children with broken hearts.

“I know one young woman with a couple of children whose son murdered somebody, and she had to move and change her name because of the brutality of society. There’s hundreds of stories out there just like that.”

Moody said society isolates prisoners and their families. Often, relatives of the convicted are seen as co-conspirators in whatever crime has been committed.

He said they need healing and they’re not going to get it from the Maine Department of Corrections.

The state doesn’t “even have money for a re-entry program,” Moody said. “You have to prepare these guys to enter society, and it has to start in prison.

“You need mental health workers and people to provide housing and jobs, but we can’t seem to pull it together.”

Moody, a former chaplain at the Maine State Prison, said two-thirds of Maine prisoners are repeat offenders.

“Every time we send back one to prison, it costs us $50,000,” he said. “This touches everyone, and the public is not aware of it. Maine has the lowest incarceration rate in the country with 4,000 prisoners, but there are 2.3 million in the nation and eight or 10 million on parole or probation.”