A group of Grayson County Detention Center inmates had reason to celebrate and hope for the future following their graduation from the “Exodus” program on Tuesday morning.
Approximately 20 detainees at the GCDC completed in the 12-week class, which aimed to ensure that they had the skills, knowledge and mindset necessary to succeed in the real world upon release and to stay out of the court system in the future.
The completion of the course, which emphasized program commitment, was a bright spot in their time being served and a point of starting over for many of the men.
The program, which focused on the five main areas of faith, future, finances, family and friends, was a biblically-based course designed to give the participants not only ‘scriptural truth’, but also ‘practical application.’
Chris Tarvin, who led the lessons, has been doing Christian prison ministry for over 13 years, and has been working with the Exodus program through its development since 2006 by Pleasantview Prison Ministry.
Tarvin feels that the practical lessons given to the inmates who chose to commit to the program are what is going to make the difference between living a successful life upon release or ending up back in prison.
He pointed out that, “in the U.S., 96 percent of inmates return within four years of being released.”
Tarvin stressed to the program participants that he wants them to be the four percent who do not come back into the system.
This is accomplished through teaching the basics of finding housing, acing a job interview, preparing a resume, budgeting finances, saving money, holding to good family values, and becoming surrounded with positive friends, among other things.
“I really didn’t have goals ‘til I came here,” one inmate said, adding that now his goals are to go to school, get a job and stay out of prison.
When Tarvin asked the group what they felt like they most benefited from learning during the class, the answers were numerous and specific. “I learned from the finances part - how to come up with a system to set money aside,” one man said.
“I learned how to distinguish which relationships are good for us,” another added, “You walk with wise people, and you become wise. Stay away from negative people, and you will avoid negative things.”
Another inmate said that the faith lessons were most important to him, explaining that he felt very low, but through the program, he was able to renew his conviction.
The program’s name is biblical in original, echoing its basis of ‘scriptural truth.’
The term ‘exodus’ derives from the journey from bondage to freedom spoken of in the book of Exodus. Like the biblical Israelites, many of these inmates are making the transition to freedom, as the program caters mainly to those who will be released within the next year, Tarvin said.
In order to complete the course, Tarvin explained that the men listened to lectures, completed homework, participated in a mock job interview, and also “had some good times,” too.
They held to the tenant that “the only way to move forward is to be honest about your past.”
“I’ve been in and out of trouble my whole life,” one man said. “I think this is a really good program. There were a lot of things I had to face before, like it’s hard to find a job when you have felonies. Now, I feel more confident. I want to learn a trade so I won’t be tempted to sell dope.”
He continued on to say that he found the program so valuable that he is sending the materials to his step-son, who was recently released from prison, and to his wife, who is also currently incarcerated. He hopes the program’s lessons can help to create a positive, fresh start for his family.
The group and Tarvin expressed their gratitude to Program Director Gail Basham, Jailer Darwin Dennison, and Deputy Jailer Jason Woosley for giving them the opportunity to hold the program at GCDC.