Society often discounts the contributions a former prisoner can make to his or her community, but at Prison Fellowship, we know that rehabilitated men and women who have been transformed by God have much to offer if given the opportunity. The men in InnerChange Freedom Initiative, Prison Fellowship’s intensive, faith-based reentry program in Richmond, Texas, are prime examples of this potential to have a big impact.
Although some of these men still have up to 18 months to serve at the Carol Vance Unit, they’re already working through Prison Fellowship’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity to help provide people in Houston with safe places to live. Since 1998, participants in our reentry program have worked on over 600 homes in the Houston area.
Last month, program participants voluntarily donated their time to build a one-story brick house on Laura Koppe Road in northeast Houston. A family will soon move in at a very affordable price.
While these prisoners are helping provide homes for families and giving back to society, they’re also learning marketable skills that will help them find work when they reenter society in the coming months. In the past, more than 15 men from InnerChange have been hired on as paid staff by Habitat upon their release.
Tommie Dorsett, a Prison Fellowship regional director, says that partnering with Habitat is part of the program’s holistic approach to preparing prisoners for successful reentry. “We address moral values, education and life skills, and we follow up with the men once they’re released from prison,” he says. Building houses in Houston provides “a chance to give back to the community in which they robbed, stole, or sold drugs.”
State prisons spokesman Jason Clark says that programs like Prison Fellowship’s intensive reentry program “are critical to the agency’s mission of promoting a positive change in offenders’ lives.” He highlights the importance of changing values and attitudes “by building moral and spiritual foundation from within.”
Prison Fellowship’s reentry program in Texas has proven to decrease re-incarceration by more than 13 percent.
Michael Swayzer is one of the prisoners in InnerChange who donates his time to work on Habitat houses. He says, “I was heading down a destructive path until I met Jesus Christ. InnerChange has taught me how to lead a family and helped me to learn how to be a man. It has given me something to live the rest of my life for: doing the right thing.”
To learn more about Prison Fellowship’s intensive reentry efforts in Texas and Minnesota, visit prisonfellowship.org.