Wayne Hughes is a former real estate developer who makes his home on California's Central Coast. Several years ago he founded Serving California, an organization that is focused on transforming the lives of prisoners, women in recovery, and military veterans. Wayne and Serving California have helped The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), a seminary-level Prison Fellowship® program to build Christian leaders in prison, spread dramatically throughout the Golden State.
Prison Fellowship: When did Serving California start?
Wayne Hughes: In 2009 I was looking at where the country was going, looking for a way to make a difference. I thought politics might be a solution. I met Chuck Colson, and he changed my mindset. He helped me see how politics reflects culture, and it was better to change the culture. I saw what Prison Fellowship was doing—the redemption, the success, the healing, and the joy, and was drawn to it. I began to see things differently, and to look at ways I was being called to exercise my faith. We started coming alongside Prison Fellowship.
How has TUMI grown?
When I met Chuck, the TUMI program was in its infancy. There was one Prison Fellowship TUMI program in Florida and one in Michigan. I found out that in Florida, correctional officers were petitioning to work in the TUMI unit because it was a safer environment. I told Chuck that I would underwrite the cost of expanding TUMI throughout the state of California. We've gone from one prison to 30 prisons in the state. By the end of this year, we will have 48 programs in those 30 prisons.
Among the TUMI graduates that have paroled, the recidivism rate is 5.4 percent.
We are also focused on sustaining it with excellence. We measure recidivism, and we are seeing some amazing results. Among the TUMI graduates that have paroled, the recidivism rate is 5.4 percent. That is a tremendous savings culturally and financially for the state of California.
What is unique about TUMI?
It's the length and depth of the commitment the students make. The longer God has His hand on your heart, the softer it becomes, and the more it becomes used for His good purpose. With time God gives these prisoners back what maybe they abandoned or was taken from them. Lives are being changed.
Why do you choose to invest in the lives of prisoners?
I think that everybody has a calling. I was lucky enough to find mine. Everybody is called to make a difference in their community. As Americans, we have been given a narrative that the government is going to take care of things, but that's not always true. If we want a better society, we have to look after the "least of these." And I think that when you are looking for ways to make a difference, you don't have to be the one who created the vessel. You can grab an oar and help with anyone's good work at any time. To folks that are maybe unsympathetic or indifferent to the plight of the offender or the ex-offender, I would simply say that they are getting out anyway. Do you want someone with a Bible in their hand—or a brick?