Revive us again
How to achieve re-entry speed
AT THE END of every old-fashioned tent revival, there comes a time to stand and testify about what the Lord’s done for His newly revived followers. It’s called witnessing, and there was a whole crowd of witnesses when the cons at the state’s biggest re-entry center made it clear how proud and happy they are to be on their way to becoming ex-cons.
These reformed characters had largely reformed themselves with a little—or rather a lot of—help from their friends, cellmates, and most of all from those who run state-financed re-entry centers like Covenant Recovery in Malvern, which is one of the centers that help prisoners turn their lives around and get on a road to recovery. Which in their case means becoming productive, self-disciplined members of the free world.
It takes a lot of hard work and self-discipline for these prisoners to attain re-entry speed, and the whole state has every reason to applaud their progress, for— lest we forget—these will be our fellow citizens and voters some day. Lord willing, they’ll soon be back among us not as dangers to society, but pillars of it.
The Hon. Asa Hutchinson, governor and chief warder of the state of Arkansas, has hailed these re-entry centers as a solution to one if the state’s most persistent plagues: a prison system filled to overflowing with inmates. More impressive, he’s put the taxpayers’ money where his mouth has been. The object is to reduce the alarming rate at which today’s prisoners find themselves behind bars again within only three years of their release. That rate of recidivism has already increased to 51.8 percent compared to the 43 percent it was two years ago. (Might this have something to do with the crackdown on those who flount probation and parole requirements? Let’s hope so.) To quote J.R. Davis, one of the governor’s spokespersons: “We’re still very much in the early stages of this” reform. “I think what we’re seeing is what the governor had envisioned—giving those that go to jail a second chance. People make mistakes, and they are responsible for those mistakes. But let’s change behavior; let’s give people a chance to change.” Surely that is not too much to ask, even to insist on.
Katy Petrus, director of Covenant Recovery, and Jeremy McKenzie, its founder, know of what they speak. Both have been inundated by requests from employers for inmates to work on projects like cleaning up work sites and helping with Neighborhood Watch programs.
Of the 669 prisoners who’ve gone though a re-entry center program, about a third of them, or 229 inmates, backslide. But that means two-thirds of them don’t! Which isn’t a bad success rate. To quote Dina Tyler, a deputy director of the state’s Community Correction Department: “They come out of prison, and they have to build structure themselves. They don’t know how. If they had known how to build structure in their life with the right planks and support beams in place, they wouldn’t have been in prison in the first place. That’s what we’re trying to teach them now.”
Our best wishes to all those embarking on the next stage of their lives. May it be a new beginning and not a repeat of an old and all too abrupt ending. Godspeed.