Ron Zifer serves as the program manager for Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Texas.
When men arrive at the Carol S. Vance Unit to participate in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, they come with a variety of horrible states of mind. Many arrive angry, fearful of what lies ahead and uncertain about this thing called IFI.
Personal change isn’t a popular idea for most of the men—in their mind what they need is a change in circumstances, luck, and results. They made a few mistakes, of course, but everyone does. They are good guys dealt a bad hand.
This approach blinds these men to the real reason they have been incarcerated. They need to come to grips with the fact that their past focus, thinking, and worldview got them incarcerated. It is crucial for them to get past rationalizing and thinking of themselves as victims and on to the basic concept that action leads to reaction and that behavior has consequences—either good or bad. Instead, too many continue to hold on to their victim status even as they prepare to leave prison and return to their communities. Of course, this rarely works.
InnerChange Freedom Initiative shows these men that there is a better way. They can live a life free of fear of re-incarceration, but in order to do this, they need to focus less on having ‘things’ and more on being a responsible family member and good citizen. Television and popular culture’s view of success and manliness often conflicts with such an approach, telling them that life would be boring, or tempting them with the lure of easy money to support their families.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, many of the men participating in IFI are able to recognize the excuses and the shortcuts that can get in the way of real transformation. Once they decide that they are tired of the revolving door in and out of prison and seek God’s help to not only change behavior but their hearts, they can become the men He intends them to be.