For prisoners who began their time behind bars at a young age, release can be especially overwhelming. As these men and women reenter society for the first time as adults and learn how to navigate daily life, they also face the challenge of resisting the old, familiar lifestyle that led to their incarceration.
Michael is one ex-prisoner who has fought this battle, and won.
Growing up in Dallas, the temptation of street life overtook Michael, and he joined a gang. Then, when a dispute with a rival gang arose and a man was shot and killed, Michael’s world turned upside down.
At the age of 18, Michael was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 45 years in prison, which was later reduced to 20 years.
A Change of Course
While serving his sentence, Michael heard about Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) from a fellow inmate. Although he had never given God much thought before prison, Michael decided he would sign up for this reentry program based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
Michael soon found himself immersed in daily Bible readings and studies of God’s Word. His IFI counselor began to help him understand the importance of what he was reading. Through a life-skills class Michael came to realize that Jesus is real and He is God, and Michael eventually became a follower of Christ.
Through other IFI classes, such as “Heart of the Problem,” “Embracing the Father,” and “Quest for Authentic Manhood,” Michael learned from where much of the bitterness and anger he harbored originated and how to handle it.
Living It Out
After serving 18 years in prison, Michael was granted parole. Upon release, he decided not to return to Dallas in order to avoid his old lifestyle. But even with the relocation, he struggled with temptations. When he would start to lose focus, his IFI mentors were there to guide him back in the right direction.
Today, Michael is married and has a job to provide for his family. He credits the IFI program with helping him build the structure and foundation he needed to succeed on the outside. By living out the core values he learned in prison, Michael has become an inspiring example of God’s power to transform prisoners into mighty men of valor.
To learn more about the IFI program and to see how you can get involved, please visit www.prisonfellowship.org.