Benny was caught in a cycle of recidivism and shame—until he found the Academy.
"The first time I went to prison, it was kind of a slap on the hand," Benny Do muses. "It was a joke—I didn't treat it with the seriousness of it. And when I left prison, I still had the same mentality that I did [before]. I came back to prison eight months later."
Benny is now serving his third stint behind bars. He's been actively involved in the Church off and on, in and out of prison. "I left prison [the first time] on fire for Christ," he says. "I stayed out for two years, but without accountability and friendship, things like that, I slowly slipped back into sin … and then it eventually snowballed."
So, what makes this time different for Benny? The Prison Fellowship Academy® at the Carol S. Vance Unit in Texas.
HOW THE PRISON FELLOWSHIP ACADEMY ADDRESSES PRISON MENTALITY
"When I first came [to Carol Vance], everyone I talked to talked about Christ," Benny says. "That was something totally different than I've ever seen at any other unit."
Located in select prisons across the country, the Academy takes incarcerated men and women through an intensive, long-term program using biblical curriculum and evidence-based practices, where they. Academy participants learn from Prison Fellowship® staff and volunteers to lead lives of purpose and productivity inside and outside of prison. Using proven approaches and Christ-centered resources, the Academy guides participants to identify life-controlling issues and take responsibility for the negative impact of their behavior on their community.
The Academy targets criminal thinking and behavior, life skills, addictions, victim impact, and prosocial culture change. By targeting these criminogenic needs—a phrase that refers to major risk factors highly associated with criminal conduct—the Academy addresses many of the issues and risk factors that contribute to recidivism. The Academy promotes pro-social thinking and behavior with its six core values of good citizenship: responsibility, integrity, restoration, community, productivity, and affirmation.
"What makes the Prison Fellowship Academy different from any other unit is that we're able to put down all the prison mentality, the gangs, the sex, the drugs, the alcohol—the whole macho attitude that people have," Benny explains, "and we can focus on God, to be with like-minded people. And we can start focusing on the things we need to get ready—ourselves, our issues that we have—to get ready for the outside."
GUIDANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Incarcerated men and women who complete the Academy program and are preparing for release have the opportunity to connect to post-release resources and support in metropolitan areas—a lifeline Benny recognizes as key to his own rehabilitation.
"The Prison Fellowship Academy has given me many skills," he says, but "mainly, it gave me contacts and a network of people, and that's the reason I came to Prison Fellowship. The reason I fell back last time was because of the lack of accountability and other [like-minded] people who … knew what I was going through."
"I came to Prison Fellowship for the [guidance], for the classes, but mainly for the accountability."
In two years, Benny will be eligible for release. In the meantime, as a member of the Academy, he plans to put his skills and education to use by being a positive peer mentor and supporting constructive culture throughout his unit.
"For anybody thinking about joining [the Academy], I'd definitely promote it," Benny says. "You should join, and see what God has for you."
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