A dozen inmates at Valdosta State Prison are now graduates of the Peach State's Faith and Character Based Program.
During the past year the inmates have gotten specialized housing and education in a variety of areas. Inmates who were used to just surviving their prison sentence have made some serious life changes, which directors hope lasts for a lifetime.
Georgia's Faith and Character Based Program selects a small number of inmates, including men at Valdosta State Prison, to live and learn about faith and character in their own dorm area for one year.
Toriarn Weldon of the Georgia Department of Corrections says, “The change amount is how you measure the success, but each little step that these inmates make is a success as a whole, and we're looking forward to taking this program statewide."
So more inmates have the opportunity to complete the program, and graduate more empowered.
Program participants say they've really seen a change. They say it's not a temporary change, but one that they will take with them for a lifetime.
Nathan Brown, a program graduate, says, "It's made me more introspective in terms of looking at me and being mindful of the decisions that I make. In particular, about the people I live around; understanding that the decisions that I make will impact other people."
James P. Miller, prison pastor, says, "This is just the beginning because they will be spread back through the prison system, and it can impact the entire system."
It’s an impact that carries a message of hope, and that a positive future is possible.
Thursday marked the first Faith and Character Based Program graduation ceremony in Georgia. Ceremonies will soon take place at five other prisons. It's different because the participants live in their own section of the prison where they can focus on the positive and improve their spiritual faith and their earthly character.