Over the years, James has watched God transform a tough prison into a peaceful refuge.
When James Fuller wakes up every morning in his cell at the Carol S. Vance Unit in Texas, the first thing he does is open his Bible. "I'm drawn to it now," James says.
James has served 29 years behind bars in correctional facilities across the state of Texas. Carol Vance was his first prison, and after many years he was transferred back. The Carol Vance he remembers is not the Carol Vance he experiences today.
He recalls how it used to be miserable, tough, and violent. "I [once] fought an individual probably every day for three straight weeks over whether or not I could sit on the bench," James says. "It was pretty bad back then."
And then Prison Fellowship® arrived.
LEADING A LIFE OF PEACE AND PURPOSE
James knew from the start that there was something different about the people from Prison Fellowship. "As these people were coming in, the violence—the type of prison life that we were living back then—changed," he says. They "brought a sense of peace, a sense of calm with them."
James had never experienced anything like that before, and he saw an immediate change in the facility's culture. Now, almost 30 years later, the Prison Fellowship Academy™ at Carol Vance is thriving.
Located in select prisons across the country, the Academy is an intensive, biblically based program that takes incarcerated men and women through a holistic life transformation process. Participants are guided by Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers to lead lives of purpose and productivity inside and outside of prison.
"[The] Prison Fellowship Academy is going to give you the tools that you need to be a productive citizen," James says. "Whether you're a Christian, whether you're a Muslim, whether you don't believe at all. … [And] if you take these same tools and apply them in everyday life, it's going to work for you."
HERE FOR A REASON
Every night before he goes to sleep, James takes a moment to meditate on his day. He reflects on his early morning devotions, the Academy classes he's attended, and the other events of his day. He asks himself,
Did I do the best I could have [done] today? Did I fulfill everything that the Lord has set before me?
"When I gave my life to Christ, [my old life] was over from then on," he says. "He's had a hand in my life ever since."
Like Carol Vance, James has changed because Prison Fellowship brought and continues to bring the Good News of Jesus behind the prison walls. "I know I'm here for a reason. It's like a sponge to me, this place—I can't get enough of it."
"This is like the heaven of penitentiaries right here."