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A Personal Mission: My Journey from South Carolina Prison Director to JUMPSTART Supporter & Donor

Updated: Sep 18, 2023


Jon Ozmint Supports Prison Ministry

I'm Jon Ozmint, and during my time as the Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) from 2003 to 2011, I had the privilege of seeing JUMPSTART begin and ensuring it had opportunities to be effective and grow. My connection with JUMPSTART has had a positive impact on my personal and professional life.


What drew me to prison ministry and re-entry programs?

At the heart of my support for volunteer programs were two factors. First, chronic underfunding posed a challenge. In the SCDC, we knew that we couldn’t fund sufficient programming, so we tapped into the immense potential of volunteers, ensuring they had both the platform and support to make a tangible difference.


Second, while there was no shortage of churches and ministries committed to evangelistic activities, genuine discipleship was what was most needed. I knew that rigorous discipleship, emphasizing real standards and true accountability, would help men and women make effective use of their time in prison and set them up for success after incarceration.


Personal Connection:

Throughout my tenure, I've experienced both the highs and lows associated with spearheading initiatives like JUMPSTART. JUMPSTART faced challenges early on because of its bottom-up approach of training incarcerated men and women to be leaders of their peers. This approach was innovative in corrections at the time and not everyone was ready to embrace it. Yet over time, most have come to realize that those closest to the problem are often closest to the solution. Often inmate peers will listen to one another before they are ready to listen to those in authority. My journey with JUMPSTART and allied programs such as the Faith and Character Dorms and the Columbia International Seminary Program has proven that structured, accountable programs have the power to transform lives from the inside out.


Impact:

One event stands out vividly in my memory. At a JUMPSTART annual fundraising banquet, I was reintroduced to Chuck Fields. The courtroom where I once prosecuted him was a far cry from this banquet hall where he now stood as a beacon of transformation. His public gratitude for my role in his journey and his testimony of finding Christ in incarceration was not just a testament to his personal growth, but a shining endorsement of the profound impact JUMPSTART has on its participants.


Mission and Vision:

Incarcerated individuals often grapple with a "victim mentality," viewing themselves more as casualties than culprits. Many well-meaning advocates, in their eagerness to help, unknowingly perpetuate this mindset. Yet, this mindset doesn’t help men and women take responsibility for their past in a way that they can learn from it, nor does it help them make the most of their future. This is where JUMPSTART sets itself apart. It challenges inmates to face their past head-on, to understand their missteps, and to actively strive for personal growth and integrity through Jesus Christ.


Partnership and Growth:

While some might see my wife, Luanne, and I as "important donors", we see ourselves differently. We try to give with purpose, looking to support ministries that are faithful to the Gospel, that leverage donor dollars, and that make a clear and measurable impact.


With my continued involvement in corrections across the US, I've been in a unique position to witness and advocate for JUMPSTART's growth. Seeing its roots expand from South Carolina to other states has been both a joy and a testament to its effectiveness.


For donors who are looking for value and impact, Luanne and I encourage you to consider JUMPSTART's approach. Working inside correctional systems leverages every donor dollar, allowing more donor resources to be used for training and equipping inmates. The results speak volumes. South Carolina’s recidivism rate is now one of the lowest in the nation, with JUMPSTART graduates literally ‘pulling down’ that rate with recidivism numbers well below that state average. We believe in JUMPSTART because it works. We have seen it transform lives, impact prisons, and enable former offenders to live productive, God-honoring lives both inside fences and beyond.


By: Jon Ozmint

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