Every year, over 700,000 inmates are released from state and federal prisons across the United States. The joy of their new freedom, however, is tempered by the realization that substantial roadblocks remain to successful reintegration. The stigma of being an ex-prisoner makes it hard to find regular employment or housing, and the temptation to return to old friends and old habits is always present. For many, these hurdles prove to be too hard to overcome, and half of those released find themselves back in prison within three years.
A Virginia-based organization is trying to change those numbers. Leadership Call seeks to improve the odds of success for returning inmates by helping them determine their own strengths and abilities, and providing the job training and mentoring necessary to start these men and women on the path to a successful career.
“[M]ost of these men have been given a bad rap,” says Leadership Call founder Dr. Toks Idowu. “They’ve already paid their dues by going to prison. They don’t have to keep on paying when they get out.”
The 12-month program has had success in keeping former prisoners from returning to prison. Dr. Idowu says that the program has had an 85 percent success rate.
“The only thing we don’t recycle is human capital,” says Dr. Idowu. “Think about it, it’s created in God’s image but we dump it, we trash it and you know just let it go. So in a way I’m in the recycling business.”
“It’s awesome to see when they get it and they run with the vision,” he says.
Prison Fellowship understands the importance of preparing inmates for a life outside the prison walls. Our InnerChange Freedom Initiative provides inmates with training and instruction before release, and with personal mentors once they leave prison. Our “bridge church” program allows local congregations to adopt an inmate for a year following their release, and encourages the ex-prisoners to become a part of a worshiping community. And our new “Welcome Back Pack” program provides former inmates with some of the basic needs we all tend to take for granted.
To learn about all of Prison Fellowship’s efforts to minister to ex-prisoners, please visit our reentry page.