When Derek Anderson arrived at Salinas Valley State Prison in 2006, he found the facility on a six-month lockdown.
"The yard was in chaos," Derek remembers. "I was just trying to figure out a way to keep my sanity, you know, so I started going to church. More than I usually do."
In his former life, Derek was a drug dealer. He ended up on a three-strikes charge and has spent the last 23 years in prison. But at Salinas, Derek enrolled in TUMI.
TUMI, The Urban Ministry Institute, is an intensive theological training course offered by Prison Fellowship® in conjunction with World Impact that teaches and equips prisoners to become Christian leaders in prisons and in the urban communities to which many of them will return.
"I got in on the first class. Graduated," Derek says. "Took me four years to graduate … proudest thing I did in my life up to this day."
BECOMING A MAN IN PRISON
Today, Derek facilitates TUMI classes and encourages new students to enroll. For Derek, helping the other men, especially the younger ones, is important in their rehabilitation and reentry.
"I came to jail when I was 30 so I actually lived out there," Derek explains. "I paid mortgages, car notes, paid like electricity, did my own shopping and stuff—but a lot of these dudes coming in here [were] like 15 and 16 [when they arrived] and they don't—this right here is their college and their high school all at once. And this is not the place for them, you know, to become a man at."
Derek is in his 50s today, but even he admits that it's difficult to mature in prison. "It's like the day we come to prison … our social and human growth stop," he says. Which is why TUMI has influenced Derek so much.
"How can I say this? [TUMI] made me welcome me. You know, I met myself for the first time at TUMI," he says. "I was just existing, but now I'm living."
Derek will go before the parole board in 2032. When he gets out, he only wants two things: "Have my mom cook me some barbecue and go see the Celtics again."