Prison Fellowship Sets People Free from Inner Prisons
Melvin is a free man. He's also serving a life sentence inside an Oklahoma prison.
"Freedom, to me, is more than just physical," he explains. "I was more imprisoned when I was out on the streets than I am now, because I was imprisoned by alcoholism and drug addiction and anger and racism, and all these reasons that brought me here."
Melvin's rough past initially followed him into prison. For the first 10 years of his incarceration, he was still addicted to drugs and alcohol. "The cycle kept continuing. I was getting in trouble over and over," he says.
The cycle wore him down. He decided to get help. "At that time, I was introduced to the Christian faith," Melvin remembers. "And I accepted that faith. I surrendered my old way to the Christian faith. And from that point on in 1985, I've been walking that road—'the Jesus road,' is what I call it."
But even after Melvin gave his life to Christ, old habits were hard to break, especially in the prison environment. That's one of the reasons Melvin signed up for the Prison Fellowship Academy®. "[The Academy] is helping me to be released from these prisons that are more important … than the physical prison," he says.
—Richard Andrew, Easter Virtual Hope Event artist
BIG PLANS AHEAD
The Academy frees incarcerated men and women from the cycle of destructive thinking and behaviors that landed them in prison. In the program, trained Prison Fellowship® staff and volunteers lead prisoners through a holistic, year-long process of life transformation. The positive community, compassionate coaching, and targeted curriculum help participants develop and practice biblically based values.
As he walks according to Christian principles, Melvin is an important part of making his prison safer and more restorative.
What's happening in Oklahoma is happening around the country. Thanks to generous supporters, there are now 110 Academy sites in 29 states. Each Academy is equipping participants to be good citizens inside and outside of prison. In Oklahoma and nationwide, prisoners are overcoming addictions, gaining responsibility, forming healthy relationships, practicing life skills, and learning how to take their places as productive and positive contributors to their communities inside and outside of prison.
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