Out of Prison for Good

Texas has almost 800-thousand men and women in prison or on parole, at a cost of nearly 3-billion dollars each year to taxpayers. This week, the world’s largest outreach to people involved with correctional supervision are meeting in San Antonio. Pat Hernandez tells us what the gathering hopes to accomplish.

Prison cells are not the permanent address for the majority of inmates. Like it or not, most prisoners will serve their sentences and then return back into their communities. But a bus ticket and 20-dollars is hadly enough to get them back on their feet.

“Where in Houston have aboiut 25-percent of the men and women incarcerated return to Houston, more than any metropolitan city in the state of Texas.”

Tommie Dorsett is executive director of Prison Fellowship Texas. It is the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. He used to be a parole officer who worked closely with inmates after being released.
He later discovered that by being involved with Prison Fellowship, he’s able to help men and women being released from prison…stay out:

“Absolutely, through Prison Fellowship’s program, we’ve been proving to reduce recidivism, reducing the percentage of men and women that would return to prison. So, we keep men and women out of prison; we keep them employed; we keep them as productive citizens.”

But it takes more than having people like Dorsett guiding ex-inmates into a productive life. A high failure rate still exists, and that represents a threat to public safety and increased cost to taxpayers. In comes Out4Life, a holistic
approach to prisoner reentry.

Government agencies and nonprofits help offenders make that successful transition. Dorsett says a three day conference in San Antonio will focus on one thing.

“One of the things that we’re going to do is actually form coalitions in the communities throughout Texas, so that we can actually build a partnership with the local parole probation departments, as well as the community organizations, so we can bring everyone together, and begin to really discuss the issues and begin to address the issues.”

Participants will address practical barriers to reintegration, by devloping ways to reduce recidivism and restoring prisoners to their families and communities, Dorsett says the conference will unite ex-offenders with organizations, both faith based and secular.

“You know for so long, the state has tried to help ex-prisoners as they return, and then for so long, churches and community organizations have tried to help people as they returned, but never have we ever really tried to work together. This is an effort for us all to come together and make Texas a safer place.” 

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