In the Prison Fellowship Academy, participants develop and practice the biblically based values of Good Citizenship.
Janice Roberson has seen the impact of the Prison Fellowship Academy® for women at Dallas County Jail. As Academy manager, she has watched participants grow, change, and begin to understand the importance of productivity as individuals and as a community.
Deep transformation doesn't happen overnight. Located in select prisons across the country, the Prison Fellowship Academy takes incarcerated men and women through a yearlong, transformational journey. Using evidence-based practices and life-changing curriculum, Academy participants develop and practice the biblically based values of Good CitizenshipSM.
"We were having lots of [drama] in the pod when we first started our program," Janice explains. "We do not have the issues that we had when we first started. … [but] we did have our challenges."
NO TIME TO WASTE
Many women in jail have dealt with abuse, drug addiction, emotional pain, or all of the above. "You have to get past [certain] things before you can be productive," Janice explains.
In the Academy setting, productivity means using your time and energy constructively. Mentors encourage participants to make the most of the time they are serving—or, as it's often said, to let time serve them.
"[Productivity] touches on so many other skills," adds Janice, "like living with integrity, relating well to others, and having your sense of worth restored." She says the Academy women have learned how to be productive every day, no matter how many days remain on their sentence.
Women in the Academy take responsibility to meet program requirements, and time management is essential to practicing productivity. Class attendance is taken seriously; unexcused absences are not allowed. While time management is a key element to productivity, not all Academy participants had a chance to develop this important life skill.
NO REASON TO WAIT
In Janice's view, people will struggle to be productive members of the community until they know they are loved and valued: "Contribution follows belonging," she says.
Productivity means more than spending your time in a meaningful way. It means using your time to relate well to others and live with integrity. Academy participants are urged not to stay idle, but to spend each day growing individually and giving back as a group. In addition to the intensive class requirements, the women started a crochet class to serve the community. Together, they provide handmade hats for the cancer trauma center at a local hospital.
In the Academy, women don't wait until release day to start setting goals. Productive futures begin today. And one person's decisions can have an impact on many lives.
Robin had cycled in and out of the system before joining the Academy at Dallas County Jail. She finally saw her own worth and learned to be a part of a healthy community—a safe place to learn how to set goals and achieve them. Now released, Robin is holding down a job and reconnecting with her children. And for the first time, she considers herself a productive person.
FROM CRIME TO CHARACTER AND COMMUNITY
In the Prison Fellowship Academy's healthy community environment, people who once committed crimes can replace former thinking and behaviors with a renewed value system and life purpose. Academy participants walk across the graduation stage as change agents. They are prepared to take their places as good citizens—positive contributors to their communities inside and outside of prison.
The Academy’s core values are the building blocks for good character. The recidivism rate among participants who embrace these values is strikingly low. And impact goes beyond statistics. We have celebrated countless stories of restored men and women who were once a part of the problem, and now are part of the solution. Academy graduates are living proof that a transformed life is a powerful thing. Changed people change their families, their communities, their culture, and generations to come.
At Prison Fellowship, we are convinced that God is at work in prison. By joining Him there through the Prison Fellowship Academy and introducing men and women to restorative values, we are taking part in one of the most exciting, culture-changing movements in recent times.
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