In July, WORLD announced the southeast finalist for the Hope Award: Jump Start, a Christ-centered prison and reentry ministry for men and women.
The annual Hope Awards go to organizations that demonstrate the power of effective compassion by fostering life change through personal, Christ-centered help to those in need. Each year, five regional awards go to organizations that embody all the Hope Awards stand for, qualifying them for the overall award. Upon the announcement of the regional finalists, the public then votes to decide the overall winner.
Often, prison ministries work inside cell walls to provide Bible studies and counseling services, then refer inmates to other resources upon release. Jump Start offers help on both sides, starting with an inmate program in sixteen different South Carolina prisons. Graduates are then eligible for the ministry’s reentry program, which includes transitional housing, job placement, and Christian mentoring.
This past April at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, SC, seven male inmates died during an all-night prison riot. But in the same prison, another group meets each week to discuss how to pursue Christ and serve others. The Jump Start curriculum also includes topics such as building healthy relationships, work ethic, respecting authority, and accepting responsibility. Staff and volunteers identify inmates with leadership skills and train them to lead groups over the course of a forty-week study.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice study across thirty states, 75 percent of inmates were rearrested within five years of release. Jump Start reports less than 4 percent recidivism. After release, many inmates return to family or friends; some do not have anywhere to go, while others are fearful of coming back to an unhealthy environment. Even securing identification proves challenging, let alone conquering the major hurdles of attempting to find appropriate housing and securing a job.
Chris Phillips of Sun Surveillance, a surveillance camera company, has fully embraced the program. Most of the workers at his business of less than a dozen employees are now from Jump Start. Another Jump Start partner company, Custom Forest, was initially wary of hiring former inmates. But when owner Eric Foust needed to grow his staff, his perspective quickly changed. Since partnering with Jump Start approximately five years ago, Foust has hired around 80 additional employees from Jump Start.
According to WORLD reporter Jamie Dean, Foust stated, “God laughs at us sometimes, because here I was worried that hiring them would be a negative—and they’ve come in and improved our culture by the way they live their lives. . . . No matter what you’ve done, God can save anybody.” Online voting for the Hope Awards opens July 20, 2018, and closes September 8, 2018. Go to wng.org/compassion to read about the finalists and cast your vote.
About the Hope Awards for Effective Compassion
The Hope Awards for Effective Compassion are sponsored by WORLD News Group, a nonprofit organization that produces WORLD Magazine, WORLD Radio, and WORLD Digital. WORLD’s mission is to provide biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires. Learn more at wng.org.
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