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- A Personal Mission: My Journey from South Carolina Prison Director to JUMPSTART Supporter & Donor
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 Ozmint Law Firm
- How JUMPSTART Addresses Criminal Thinking & Behaviors
JUMPSTART stands as a beacon in rehabilitative and transformative programming, demonstrating the power of harmonizing faith-based discipleship with the rigors of social science research. At its heart, the program is grounded in the journey toward becoming a mature disciple in Christ, emphasizing the growth, understanding, and responsibilities that accompany such spiritual progression. Yet, JUMPSTART doesn't limit itself to theological exploration alone. It actively integrates the latest findings from social science, ensuring that participants benefit from a holistic blend of spiritual depth and evidence-based insights. This convergence reinforces the idea that the path to discipleship in Christ and the revelations from scientific research are not contradictory but can beautifully amplify each other. Through this article, we dive into the depth of JUMPSTART’s approach, showcasing how it weaves the profound journey of Christian discipleship with the illuminating discoveries of modern social science to forge a transformative path for its participants. Antisocial Beliefs and Values JUMPSTART is meticulously designed to foster self-awareness concerning cognitive distortions frequently identified among incarcerated individuals. As noted by Cullen et al. (2017), these distortions can manifest as exaggerated entitlement senses, misinterpretations of reality, tendencies for self-justification, externalized blame, and distrust toward institutional structures. Such misconceptions can lead to erroneous interpretations of benign behaviors as threatening. Through its programming, JUMPSTART provides tools for participants to detect and rectify these antisocial patterns. Substance Abuse There's a well-established connection between substance abuse and criminal activities (King & Delfabbro, 2019). Although JUMPSTART isn’t exclusively a substance abuse intervention, its significant reductions in recidivism and participant testimonials indicate its potential to curb substance-related criminal behaviors. Emphasizing personal purpose as a transformative tool, the program inspires participants with success stories of those who've navigated the challenges of addiction and criminality. Antisocial Peers Recent research, such as that conducted by Monahan et al. (2020), reinforces the notion that an individual’s peer group significantly influences criminal behavior. When surrounded by peers involved in illicit activities, one's likelihood of participating increases. JUMPSTART educates participants on the profound impact of their social circles, providing strategies for resisting negative influences while fostering positive peer interactions. This is achieved through mechanisms like peer mentorship and community volunteer engagement, creating supportive social networks for participants both during and post-incarceration. Family Dysfunction The family's role in shaping early behavior and attitudes is crucial, with contemporary research underscoring its impact on eventual outcomes (Smith et al., 2018). Families marked by dysfunction, substance misuse, and criminal behaviors often instigate harmful behavioral patterns. Recognizing this, JUMPSTART delves deep into these issues, offering holistic solutions for participants to confront and transform these ingrained challenges. If you'd like to discuss any of this further or have me come and share with a group or team, I'd love to hear from you by email at Cary.Sanders@jumpstartvision.org By: Dr. Cary Sanders, JUMPSTART SC CEO References: Cullen, F. T., Jonson, C. L., & Nagin, D. S. (2017). Prisons do not reduce recidivism: The high cost of ignoring science. The Prison Journal, 97(4), 389-404. King, D. L., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2019). The cognitive psychology of Internet gaming disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 68, 1-13. Monahan, K. C., King, K. M., Shulman, E. P., Cauffman, E., & Chassin, L. (2020). The effects of violence exposure on the development of impulse control and future orientation across adolescence and early adulthood: Time-specific and generalized effects in a sample of juvenile offenders. Development and Psychopathology, 32(2), 509-521. Smith, C. A., Ireland, T. O., & Thornberry, T. P. (2018). Adolescent maltreatment and its impact on young adult antisocial behavior. Child Abuse & Neglect, 84, 313-322.
- Reducing Homelessness and Crime
Introduction As the prison doors swing open, the challenges awaiting released prisoners often appear insurmountable, none more pressing than securing a stable place to call home. Rooted in a profound sense of community and belonging, JUMPSTART extends a lifeline to individuals teetering on the precipice of homelessness upon their release. Through a comprehensive approach, JUMPSTART is mitigating homelessness and crime head-on, providing solutions backed by research and a fifteen-year track record of results. JUMPSTART’s Role in Reducing Homelessness One of the primary obstacles faced by released prisoners is securing stable housing. JUMPSTART addresses this issue through its holistic transitional ministry. Grounded in creating a sense of community and belonging, JUMPSTART assists individuals in their post-incarceration journey, often serving men and women who would be homeless the day of their release without JUMPSTART. Without housing assistance, it is estimated that approximately 10% of prisoners will experience homelessness as soon as the day of their release (1). Research indicates that most former prisoners reside, at least initially, with family members after release, and a substantial minority also return initially to transitional housing, work release centers, or temporary emergency shelters (2). Obtaining and maintaining a safe place to live is important as researchers consistently find that released prisoners without stable housing are much more likely to return to prison (3). Providing safe and secure housing to returning prisoners is also a critical link to other services such as substance use or mental health treatment and employment (4). The reality of reentry is that at least half of released prisoners return to their old neighborhood or to a similarly disadvantaged community with high crime rates and few services and support systems to promote successful reintegration into the community (5). Dr. Bryon Johnson, who is recognized by many to be a leading scholar on criminal justice reform, says this in his book More God, Less Crime, “Just because an inmate makes a profession of faith does not change the fact that he or she will struggle to find stable employment, acceptable housing, adequate transportation, and supportive family members. Because of these and other reentry difficulties, it is only a matter of time before many ex-prisoners return to prison" (6). Over the past eight years, over 200 men and women have completed the inside and outside phases of JUMPSTART and are living as examples of God’s ability to rescue and restore. Providing safe and affordable housing and all of the wrap-around services mentioned thus far are foundational for these successful outcomes. More than a few from the program have even become the first person in their immediate family to become homeowners! JUMPSTART’s Impact on Crime Reduction JUMPSTART’s continuum of care approach targets recidivism at its roots. By providing comprehensive support during and after imprisonment, JUMPSTART helps ex-offenders avoid returning to crime, ultimately improving public safety. JUMPSTART cultivates spiritual and personal transformation within prisons, targeting the root causes of criminal behavior. This proactive approach aims to deter individuals from reoffending and fosters a commitment to personal growth. In addition to these spiritual programs, JUMPSTART offers holistic reentry services, mental health services, substance abuse programs, employment resources, and life skills training. These services empower ex-offenders with the skills needed to reintegrate successfully into society and significantly reduce the likelihood of reoffending. The Efficacy of JUMPSTART’s Approach: A Research Perspective Multiple studies validate the effectiveness of organizations like JUMPSTART. For instance, the Pew Center on the States' report found that states offering comprehensive reentry programs experienced a substantial decrease in recidivism rates compared to those without such programs (Pew Center on the States, 2011). Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation suggested that programs grounded in spirituality considerably reduced the risk of ex-prisoners reoffending (Johnson, 2019). These findings are mirrored in JUMPSTART’s impressive success rates, with the organization reporting decreased recidivism rates and increased societal reintegration success among its program participants. Conclusion JUMPSTART demonstrates the power of an integrated, comprehensive approach to prisoner rehabilitation and reentry. By addressing ex-offenders spiritual, emotional, and practical needs, the organization mitigates homelessness and reduces recidivism rates. JUMPSTART’s work is a testament to the old adage, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." JUMPSTART doesn't merely offer temporary fixes but provides ex-offenders with the support and tools they need to build sustainable, crime-free lives after release. JUMPSTART's work contributes to creating a safer, more compassionate society, offering a beacon of hope for those affected by incarceration. If you want to help reduce homeless and crime and provide men and women with transformational opportunities in South Carolina, I'd encourage you to learn more about Restoration Village - a neighborhood where love, accountability, and transformational opportunities are the standard. You can learn more here. Written by: Dr. Cary Sanders on August 15, 2023 References: (1) Greg A. Greenberg, and Robert A. Rosenheck, “Homelessness in the state and federal prison population” Criminal Justice and Mental Health, (2008): 88–103. (2) Valerie A. Clark, The Effect of Community Context and Post-Release Housing Placements on Recidivism. (St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Corrections: 2015). (3) Benjamin Steiner, Matthew D. Makarios, and Lawrence F. Travis, “Examining the effects of residential situations and residential mobility on offender recidivism,” Crime & Delinquency, 61 (2015): 375–401. (4) Caterina G. Roman, and Jeremy Travis, “Where will I sleep tomorrow? Housing, homelessness, and the returning prisoner.” Housing Policy Debate, 17 (2015): 389–418. (5) Jeremy Travis, Bruce Western, and Steve Redburn (eds.), The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2011), 23. (6) Byron R. Johnson, “The Faith Factor and Prisoner Reentry.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 4 (January): 1–21.
- Concordance Expansion to South Carolina: Answering Questions and Clarifying the Implications
Over the past two days, I’ve fielded dozens of emails, texts, and phone calls about the new partnership between Concordance and the South Carolina Department of Corrections that was announced early this week by many media outlets. If you haven’t heard, Concordance is non-profit focused on reducing recidivism and they received $60 million from Wells Fargo to expand to 40 locations over the next 5 years. I wanted to take a moment and answer some of recurring questions I’ve been asked: Does this mean the Department of Corrections will no longer allow other re-entry programs? The Department of Corrections celebrates all of the re-entry programs that have had a major impact on reducing recidivism in South Carolina over the past decade. Just last week, our leadership team met with senior leaders at the Department of Corrections headquarters in Columbia to dream together about how JUMPSTART and the Dept. of Corrections can help even more men and women thrive after incarceration. Last year, Bryan Stirling the Department of Corrections leader spoke at our Transitional Program graduation at USC Upstate. During his visit he shared with WYFF News 4 about how he shares nationally about JUMPSTART is the model other state leaders should implement. You can watch that news interview below. Again, the Department of Corrections is not going to stop programs like ours that have helped thousands of men and women thrive after incarceration. Concordance, like us, will not receive taxpayer funding for our mission. The separation of church and state is a good thing. Will JUMPSTART be partnering with Concordance? We do not know yet. This week was the first time we had heard of the organization. They are based out of Missouri, and SC will be their first satellite operation. We do seek to collaborate and share and learn from best practices with other organizations making a difference in the community and do not see them as competitors. We currently have over a dozen partners in the upstate to ensure those in our program have access to medical care, dental care, clinical counseling, workforce development opportunities, higher education, financial literacy, mentoring, and more. Is Concordance really investing $60 million in South Carolina to reduce recidivism? No, they are investing $60 million across 40 locations nationally over the next five years. It has yet to be known how much of this funding will make its way to South Carolina and more importantly into the direct care services that are essential for changing lives and reducing recidivism. South Carolina already has the lowest level of recidivism in the nation. Why did Concordance pick South Carolina as their first satellite campus? We do not know. Some have speculated that they would want to go where there is the greatest level of current success to give themselves the greatest chance at success with their first satellite operation. But that is only speculation. We are hoping they can help all those in South Carolina working in the space of homelessness, criminal justice, addiction-oriented organizations to further break cycles of crime, addiction, and poverty. Because when lives that are off track experience restoration, we all win. Does Concordance coming to the Greenville-Spartanburg area mean that JUMPSTART will no longer need to offer transitional services? No. Concordance, according to what we've been able to find, does not offer transitional housing or transportation. They offer outpatient services. These services will undoubtably help some men and women post-release. And this is to be celebrated. Nevertheless, many coming out of incarceration that JUMPSTART's serves do not have access to transportation nor anywhere to live. Outpatient services could help them, but if they are homeless after incarceration, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get a job and get to and from that job consistently without reliable transportation. Additionally, all the research indicates that a residential program that emphasizes relational community, accountability, and ongoing support services, has the highest level of success. JUMPSTART’s model is built on the best of social science research and theological scholarship. JUMPSTART's Restoration Village is receiving national attention and accolades due to its continuum of care approach that integrates all evidenced based practices with a community of love, accountability, and support. Learn more about Restoration Village here. What is an important distinction that differentiates JUMPSTART from Concordance? Our emphasis is that lasting life change comes from having a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. We believe that re-entry preparation and re-entry support services are absolutely essential to help men and women whose lives are off track reintegrate well into the community after incarceration. And we believe these services are most effective when centered in the life transforming truth of God’s Word. This belief that More God = Less Crime is not only believed by Christians but is backed by evidenced based research. Read here more about this research. I do not believe any of us should throw stones at other organizations who do not employ Christ as the indispensable ingredient in the solution. While, I do believe the transformation and abundant life that Christ alone can deliver, provides the best and most comprehensive solution, other organizations doing great work can make a difference in the lives of others. Recently, JUMPSTART was recognized as a top non-profit nationally for the lifetime value we are creating for those we serve. You can see this data for this research here. At JUMPSTART, we will continue to transform lives through intensive discipleship among the incarcerated, and by providing world-class residential transitional services to those reintegrating back into the community from incarceration. You can click here to learn more about our discipleship model. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this further, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Cary Sanders P.S. - At JUMPSTART, we are changing the national narrative on what is possible for those involved in the criminal justice system. Let's keep our eyes on Jesus as we continue to offer world class discipleship and transitional services so that many can have a future greater than their past.
- Can People Change? An Inside Look at How JUMPSTART's Approach is Changing Lives Inside of Prisons.
JUMPSTART's model transcends basic prison ministry. While many prison ministries offer bible correspondence courses, or help facilitate occasional worship services, JUMPSTART believes these approaches alone are not enough to transform lives. Lasting life transformation is the result of long-term, relational, life-on-life discipleship. If you are eager to learn more about the methodology of program that is changing the national narrative on what is possible for those who are involved with the criminal justice, read on: The primary question that will be answered in this blog is: How does JUMPSTART theologically form disciples who live for Christ while incarcerated and after their release? Participants in JUMPSTART's inside program work through curriculum each week prior to class with inside leaders, and then attend class each week. Well-trained volunteers attend these classes. Volunteers and inside leaders are essential components of the program's success. Where do volunteers and Inside Leaders fit in? Well-trained volunteers and inside leaders are instrumental in overseeing and facilitating the JUMPSTART discipleship process. Volunteers are primarily members of local churches who have committed to serving with the program at least once per week in a prison near their home. Inside leaders are incarcerated men and women who have successfully completed the program in a previous year and have been selected and trained to participate as leaders. The Inside Leaders are in many ways the genius of the program design. Each week outside of class they are working with the participants one-on-one in coaching sessions and by helping the complete their workbooks and answer questions or discuss the material as needed. The inside leaders are serving as missionaries behind the razor wire sharing the Gospel and discipling others daily. All volunteers and inside leaders are required to successfully complete a six-week training program prior to volunteering. Typically, the trainings are completed with inside leaders and volunteers discussing the content and developing as a team before the program begins each year. Prior to class each week, inside leaders and volunteers work through six individual lessons that are focused on developing and practicing the spiritual disciplines that are essential for believers and especially Christian leaders. Then in a group class, the inside leaders and volunteers review the spiritual discipline of the week and go through the JUMPSTART specific leadership lessons together. Each week the group classes is structured to discuss the content, share their responses to the questions, and hold each other accountable to thepractical application exercises in each chapter. The six spiritual disciplines emphasized are: Personal Bible Intake, Personal Prayer Life, Fasting, Life-Long Learning, Accountability, and Worship. The six JUMPSTART specific topics are: Leaders Own the Cause (of Christ), Leading Group Discussion, Coaching Using Assessments, Completing Bible Study Worksheets, Leading by Listening, and Final Preparations (for leading program). Volunteers and Inside leaders also receive additional content regularly to equip them to serve well in their roles. JUMPSTART Discipleship Process: Key Ideas Key Idea #1: With Christ Anyone's Future Can Be Greater Than Their Past JUMPSTART’s discipleship process can be better understood by considering several key ideas that shape the curriculum and approach. The first key idea is the organization’s core belief that fuels their mission and vision. This core belief is, “With Christ, anyone’s future can be greater than their past.” “With Christ” is intentionally first because discipleship and life transformation begin with Christ. JUMPSTART is not a self-help program. From the outset, participants are taught that life transformation can only begin when one has a healthy relationship with Christ. In the initial weeks, the Gospel is articulated clearly through preaching, teaching, conversation, and other communication tools to help participants understand and respond to Christ’s offer of salvation. Second, “with Christ” is important because Christ’s sacrifice ensured that anyone can be justified and transformed to live a life worthy of Christ (Rom. 5:1 & 2 Cor. 5:17). Furthermore, while JUMPSTART understands that one’s choices prior to Christ have real consequences that do not disappear just because one accepts Christ, it is still true that one’s future will be greater than their past once they have repented and surrendered to Christ.While someone may have a life sentence for their crimes that will not be overturned on this earth, their immediate andeternal future is still greater than their past because of what Christ has accomplished for them and the relationship they have access to with Him. Key Idea #2: God's truth is powerful enough to transform lives and set people free from maladaptive behaviors and addictions. A second key idea that shapes JUMPSTART’s approach is the power of God’s truth to transform lives and set people free from maladaptive behavior and addictions. Good theology empowers disciples to think correctly and liverightly. What one does or does not do flows from what they believe. Sound theology shapes what one believes and helps them think clearly, properly, and, most importantly, biblically about God. Maturing theologically as a disciple involves, “both deprogramming (exposing, critiquing, and correcting the pictures and stories we live by) and reprogramming (replacing the “old self” and the social imaginaries that funded our former way of life with the social imaginary generated by Scripture and the gospel.”(1) Therefore, JUMPSTART is structured so that participants to learn ho to live out and apply this verse daily, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discernwhat is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2). As participants are theologically formed by comprehending God’s truth and how He defines life and reality, their daily lives will be shaped by this knowledge as they assimilate it into their lives. Key Idea #3: Small Groups Create The Right Environment for Life Change A third key idea is that small groups are essential for nurturing life change and growth in Christ. Jeffery Arnold and Stephanie Black, small group dynamic experts, write, "Small groups provide a format where the Christian life can be nurtured and experienced in a loving community." (2) Small groups are conducive for developing self-awareness, allowing for greater participation, and they provide the structure needed for accountability, assessments, and feedback. This will be discussed in greater detail after the curriculum is reviewed. Key Idea #4: Stories Drastically Shape and Influence our Lives A fourth key idea is the power of stories to shape and influence the direction of individual’s lives. The time,energy, and money we spend during our time on the world’s stage is largely a function of the stories and images of human flourishing in which we believe and put our trust." JUMPSTART structures the program so that throughout the year participants are exposed to the biblical narratives, the life experiences of inside leaders and volunteers, and the stories of previous participants who have done well after returning to society. In the context in which JUMPSTART works, ex-offender testimonies by those who have been transformed by Christ are extremely effective and influential in motivating and teaching valuable lessons to the participants. Therefore, JUMPSTART desires for the participants to be theologically formed by biblical stories, images, and personal testimonies as this helps them learn to connect the truth of God with their personal story and how they live with Christ as Lord moving forward. An Overview of JUMPSTART's In Prison Curriculum The JUMPSTART program curriculum consists of four primary components. The first component is The Purpose Driven Life written by Rick Warren. The second component which supplements and complements The Purpose Driven Life is JUMPSTART’s Participant Lifebook. The third component is a Bible study worksheet that participants are required to complete every week. The fourth component is a collection of forty-character traits that participants must learn and interact with during each week of the program. The following sections will outline and describe these components and how they are utilized to theological form the participants and nurture their growth in Christian maturity. The Purpose Driven Life The Purpose Driven Life centers around the Greatest Commandment (Matt 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20). Out of these two directives, Rick Warren draws five purposes that apply to every believer. The first purpose is that every believer is designed to love God with all of their heart. Since everyone was created for God’s pleasure, their purpose is to love God through worship. The participants learn that authentic worship is not about pursuing what pleases them, but about living for what makes God smile. God smiles when one loves Him, trusts and obeys Him, worships Him, and uses their abilities for His glory. In this section, Warren gives practical suggestions for growing as a worshipper through prayer, meditation, honesty, and obedience. This is a core truth for JUMPSTARTparticipants to learn since many of their destructive behaviors and addictions are rooted in the worship of idols. The second purpose is that every believer is directed to love their neighbor as themselves. Warren makes the case that everyone has been given a personal ministry that allows them to serve others well and put God’s love on display. The participants learn from the book that ministry is not an option for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ. They learn that serving others is a significant part of what gives one’s life meaning and significance. In this section they also take an assessment that helps them understand their SHAPE: Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experience (pg. 236-256). This core truth for JUMSPTART participants is central because prior to incarceration many lived as if life was all aboutfinding personal satisfaction and fulfillment, and many were not concerned with how their behavior impacted others. The third purpose is that every believer is responsible for living with the commission to “go and makedisciples.” Since discipleship begins with receiving the Gospel, Warren makes the case that every believer has a mission in the world to share the Gospel with those they meet and know. Warrant teaches that, “fulfilling the evangelistic mandate God has given you will require abandoning your life agenda for God’s, and that failing to fulfill this mandate is equivalent to wasting one’s life” (pg. 285). Participants learn about sharing their life message, which includes their testimony, the greatest life lessons they have learned, how to articulate the Gospel in a winsome way. This truth isimportant for those in JUMSPTART because this God given purpose will reorient every aspect of their lives. When one lives with the mission of helping others come to know Christ, then their words and actions are directed towards this overarching purpose. The fourth purpose finds its roots in the phrase “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This purpose is primarily about identifying with a local church in Biblical fellowship and living as a member in God’s family. In the Purpose Driven Life, the participants learn that fellowship is a wonderful privilege one begins to experience as one joins the family of God in a local church. Participants are expected to attend the localchurch within their prison and a local church after they are released. They learn that real fellowship is characterized by authenticity, mutuality, sympathy, and mercy. In this section, participants learn that cultivating this kind of community takes honesty, humility, courtesy, and confidentiality. They also learn how to resolve conflict, restore broken relationships, love others well, and protect the unity of a localchurch. It is critical for those in JUMPSTART to learn how to be a contributing family member in a local church. In the local church they are nourished and developed, they place themselves in a position to be accountable to other believers, and join together with other believers for encouragement as they serve God well in their community. Lastly, the fifth purpose that JUMPSTART desires for the participants to grasp is the directive to, “teaching them to do all that I have commanded you.” Everyone redeemed by God has the purpose of growing into maturity and usefulness for the Kingdom through discipleship (Rom. 8:29). In the Purpose Driven Life, participants learn that: Discipleship is about taking on [God’s] values, attitudes, and character by allowing God to transform the way we think through His Spirit and our repentance, by abiding in God’s word, and by persevering through trouble and temptation. JUMPSTART’s first key to success is, “Live daily surrendered to Jesus Christ.” As participants posture their life with living surrendered to Christ as their primary objective, they will fulfill all of the purposes for which they were created. JUMPSTART Participant Lifebook Each chapter of the JUMPSTART Participant Lifebook is designed to complement and supplement a chapter of the Purpose Driven Life. After reading a chapter of the Purpose Driven Life, participants complete a worksheet related to each chapter. Each worksheet has five to eight questions that are designed to measure the participants comprehension of the material, help them discover whether they are living out the truth they have learned, and develop specific plans for implementing and living out God’s truth in their day-to-day life. Below is a sample page of the workbook: Additionally, it should also be mentioned that many of the questions in the workbook are designed to be relevant and helpful for those JUMPSTART serves. Research has revealed that the majority of the incarcerated grew up in unhealthy home and community environments. (4) Many have experienced numerous adverse childhood experiences including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, and many have experienced injustice that has led to a distrust and even hate of authority. (5) Furthermore, a large majority have used alcohol and drugs since early adolescence. These and other life experiences have contributed to the development of a worldview that is far from biblical.Therefore, for JUMSPTART’s discipleship process to be effective, it is critical that participants process and resolve these issues if they are to move forward and mature as disciples. The workbook questions are designed to help the participants begin processing and resolving the issues these type of life experiences have created. A portion of the workbook questions are intended to help the participants become self-aware of how their life experiences have shaped their thinking and behavior. Then, they are encouraged to share about these experiences in their small groups and allow their fellow participants, inside leaders, and volunteers to help them process their pain, find comfort in God’s healing, and be directed and formed by His truth. Bible Study Worksheet Each week, participants are also required to complete a Bible Study Worksheet .The participants are assigned a passage of Scripture and are required to complete the worksheet before each week’s class. The questions are grouped under three headings: Head, Heart, and Hands and Feet. The questions are structured so that participants first learn truth, then internalize the truth, and then allow the truth to direct their behavior, words, and actions. The questions in the Bible Study Worksheet are as follows: Head – God’s Word Transforms My Thinking 1. What is the context of the passage? Who was the author writing to? Why was this written? 2. What does this passage teach me about God’s Character? 3. What truths does this passage reveal that I need to believe? Heart – God’s Word Defines Healthy Emotions & Affections 4. What does this passage teach me to love? To hate? To Feel? 5. What decisions are being made in this passage? Why are they being made? 6. What temptations in my heart does this passage reveal? Hands and Feet – God’s Word Directs My Actions 7. Do I have sin to confess and make right? Please explain 8. Is there an example in the passage I need to follow? Please explain 9. How does this passage show that I can serve God & others? A sample Bible Study Worksheet: There are multiple reasons they are required to complete the bible study worksheet every week. First, the goal is not for participants to just learn what is necessary to avoid returning to prison. Rather, the objective is for them to live as disciples who are productive members of society and difference makers for God’s kingdom. Therefore, participants must learn to personally understand and apply God’s Word in every aspect of life. While there is no expectation that they understand God’s Word at the level of a professional scholar or clergyman, it is imperative that they learn the basics of how to interpret and apply God’s Word.It is a huge win for the participants to learn how to personally examine the stories, principles, commandments, etc., and then synthesize these truths into theological knowledge that can be applied practically in their lives as they live with Christ as Lord of their life. In John 8:31-32, Jesus said to those who believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” As participants learn to abide in Christ and liveout His truth, they will not only avoid returning to prison they will be equipped to serve God faithfully. Purpose and Process of Small Groups in JUMPSTART Each week after reading a chapter of the Purpose Driven Life, completing their JUMPSTART Lifebook worksheet for the week, and the bible study worksheet, the participants attend class with volunteers coming in from local churches to help facilitate. During the class a review of the lesson is provided to reinforce the content, but the majority of the class time is spent in small groups. All class members are required to actively participate in small groups to discuss what they have learned from the weeks content and how they have applied and/or struggled to apply the truth in their daily lives. Effective small groups are an essential component of the JUMPSTART discipleship program for several reasons. First, developing self-awareness and engaging in personal discovery often happens best in a small group setting. In a small group setting, individuals can ask questions, receive feedback, involve themselves in the lives of others, and generally learn to be vulnerable among other people who are going through the joys and challenges of life with them. Additionally, people are more likely to share about their struggles and challenges, and enter into biblical fellowship in a small group setting. Secondly, small groups allow for maximum participation. In a large gathering, typically only a few people willhave the opportunity to share. However, lecture style learning is often not the most effective way to impart knowledge. Small groups allow for each participant to contribute and receive specific guidance and support on their discipleship journey. Also, in a small group setting, every participant is allowed to share and reflect on personal stories that are connected to what they are learning. This not only helps them develop self-awareness personally it also edifies the group as they learn from others struggles and learnings. Thirdly, organizing the participants into small groups with trained inside leaders and volunteers allows them to be shepherded well and held accountable for completing their work and their behavior. Week after week the participants are revealing what they are learning, the challenges they are facing, and setting action steps with their group leaders. As the year progresses, and trust and relationships are developed, then the volunteers and inside leaders better understand how to help those in their care grow in Christ. This structure is also conducive for gathering info andinsight to help with completing the JUMSPTART Re-Entry Assessments. JUMPSTART Re-Entry Assessments Three times during the course of the program the participants are assessed to measure growth and receive specific feedback for areas in which they need to grow. The participants are assessed by inside leaders, volunteers, and the institutional chaplain using the JUMPSTART Re- entry Assessment pictured below. Using a Likert scale for twenty-five questions, the assessments are designed to measure how well the participants are putting into action what they are learning in the program The first two times the assessments are completed they are used as a coaching tool to help the participants understand specific areas in which growth is needed. After the first two assessments are completed, each participant has a meeting with an inside leader to discuss their assessment. The primary purpose of these meetings is for the participant to understand where they need to grow, be encouraged for where they are doing well and receive specific coaching for how they can finish the course successfully. The assessments are also valuable for theological formation. If the participants are not doing well in a particular area, the assessments help provide insight into which concepts the participant has not learned and assimilated into their life. This provides inside leaders and volunteers with information that is helpful for sheperding each participant. The final assessment determines the participants grade for the class. On average, approximately 1000 participants take JUMSPTART each year, but only 40% complete the course successfully. If they are not actively living out what they have learned, then they do not pass the course. The final assessment for each participant is completed by JUMPSTART staff, inside leaders, volunteers, and the institutional chaplain (if the chaplain is able and willing). This corroboration as assessments are completed ensures that participants are examined carefully before he or she is determined to have successfully completed the program. Conclusion While no discipleship method is perfect, JUMPSTART has forged a compelling ten-year track record of verifiable results. Astonishingly, fewer than 4% of the thousands of participants who have completed the JUMPSTART program have returned to prison after their release. This success rate of 96% stands in stark contrast to the national recidivism rate, which hovers just above 70%. This significant difference underscores the profound impact that context-specific, one-on-one discipleship can have in transforming lives, even within the confines of prison. JUMPSTART’s approach, with its emphasis on theological formation and discipleship, leverages a high-quality curriculum that enables participants to conduct personal Bible studies. By fostering an environment that values transparency and nurturing relationships in small groups, and by providing consistent coaching and constructive feedback through assessments, JUMPSTART cultivates disciples who live purposeful lives that honor God. This is not just a program, but a powerful vehicle for transformation and renewal. I invite you to learn more and get involved with helping us change the national narrative on what is possible for those who have been involved in the criminal justice system. Dr. Cary Sanders email@example.com References: Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019). Jeffrey Arnold and Stephanie Black, The Big Book on Small Groups (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992). Lorraine E. Cuadra, et al., Child maltreatment and adult criminal behavior: Does criminal thinking explain the association?, 38 Child Abuse Neglect 1399 (2014), available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1652&context=- psychfacpub Nancy Wolff & Jing Shi, Childhood and Adult Trauma Experiences of Incarcerated Persons and Their Relationship to Adult BehavioralHealth Problems and Treatment, 9 Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 1908 (2012), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3386595/pdf/ijerph-09-01908.pdf
- Second Chances: Transforming Lives with JUMPSTART's Prison Ministry
Greetings, I am Tim Murray, blessed to serve as the Inside Program Director for JUMPSTART. I was born in 1970 to a single mother and was raised in the warm embrace of my grandparents. My grandfather was a beacon of wisdom in my life, teaching me the importance of honoring others. This is a principle deeply rooted in the Bible where it says, "Give everyone what you owe him... if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." My grandfather and I spent countless days fishing in South Carolina's lakes and rivers. These moments reminded me of the biblical lessons about patience and persistence, reinforcing that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Like many young men, I dreamed of a future in professional football. However, an injury and a few missteps in my youth redirected my journey, much like how trials were used in the Bible to shape and guide individuals towards God's plan. In the absence of my grandfather, I sought a sense of belonging and identity, eventually falling into the grips of substance abuse. This experience mirrored the story of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance only to find himself lost and yearning for home. My decisions led me to prison, a consequence that was never in my plans. Yet, in the solitude of the Greenville County Detention Center in 2003, I had a life-changing encounter. A visiting ministry team, the Weekend of Champions, became the catalyst for my personal transformation. Curiosity led me to attend their service, and it was there that I realized that I lacked a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus said, "Today salvation has come to this house," I, too, found salvation on April 11th, 2003. Prison, though a place of tribulation, became a place of transformation for me. It was there that I discovered my divine purpose and learned to live a life of value, guided by the teachings of JUMPSTART. As the Bible teaches us to entrust the things we have heard to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others, JUMPSTART taught me the importance of accountability, responsibility, and stewardship. Since my release, I've experienced the abundant grace of God in my life. I found love, reconnected with my family, explored the vastness of our country, and most importantly, returned to the prison, not as an inmate, but as a guide, a helper, a disciple of Christ, reaching out to those seeking a better path. And so, I invite you. We need volunteers with hearts full of compassion and a readiness to serve and love our fellow men and women. If your heart echoes the sentiments of David in the Psalms, "a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise," then we need your help. Join us at JUMPSTART. Let's heed the call of the Great Commission together, to go and make disciples of all nations. Remember, as it is said in the Scriptures, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Together, we can open doors of hope and transformation, one life at a time. We have active programming in 19 of South Carolina's prisons. Below is a map of the locations where our prison ministry is active. You can apply to volunteer by clicking here.
- The Dance of Justice and Mercy: An Integrated Approach to Crime, Addiction, and Recidivism
A perpetual challenge our society grapples with is the issue of crime, addiction, and recidivism. Traditional approaches often prioritize punitive measures as the primary means of addressing these issues, but emerging research suggests that this is not the most effective approach. A more compassionate, empathetic strategy that combines justice and mercy may not only offer more hope for the individuals embroiled in these cycles, but also for the overall health and well-being of society. Justice and Mercy: A Necessary Union According to research, an approach that combines justice and mercy could offer a more effective solution. Justice, defined as fairness or moral rightness, and mercy, defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm, are often viewed as opposing concepts. However, they need not be mutually exclusive (Duff, 2007). In fact, mercy can be an essential component of justice. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu suggests, "There can be no justice without mercy," illustrating the belief that justice is incomplete without the acknowledgment and respect for the human dignity of all individuals, even those who have erred (Tutu, 1999). Reducing Crime: A Balance of Justice and Mercy Crime reduction is often the central focus of justice systems worldwide. The conventional wisdom holds that punitive measures would deter individuals from committing crimes. However, research in criminology suggests that severity of punishment does not always correlate with a decrease in crime rates (Nagin and Pogarsky, 2001). An approach integrating justice and mercy, conversely, shows promise in reducing crime rates. Mercy, in this context, doesn't mean absolving criminals of their actions but rather understanding the underlying factors that contribute to criminal behavior. It entails the provision of support systems, such as therapy, education, job training, and other rehabilitative measures, to help offenders reorient their lives (Cullen, 2013). A justice system grounded in mercy aims to address the root causes of crime, rather than simply punishing the symptoms. Addressing Addiction: Justice with Compassion Addiction is another complex issue closely linked with crime. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018), addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior. It requires medical and psychological interventions, rather than punitive ones. A justice system founded on mercy recognizes addiction as a health issue, opting for a public health approach over punishment. Several studies suggest that Drug Treatment Courts, which combine justice and treatment services, can significantly reduce substance abuse and criminal recidivism, offering a more effective solution than punitive measures alone (Mitchell et al., 2012). Combating Recidivism: The Role of Restorative Justice The concept of mercy is essential in addressing the issue of recidivism. It encourages an approach focused on rehabilitation and social reintegration, rather than punishment. A model of justice that exemplifies this principle is restorative justice. According to a study by Latimer, Dowden, and Muise (2005), restorative justice programs demonstrate significantly lower recidivism rates compared to traditional criminal justice approaches. Restorative justice is a process that involves dialogue and reconciliation between offenders and victims, focusing on repairing harm and reintegrating offenders back into society. It acknowledges the human potential for change and emphasizes the importance of community support for successful reintegration (Zehr, 2002). In essence, it is a justice system that integrates mercy and humanity into its core. In conclusion, to address the intricate challenges of crime, addiction, and recidivism, an integrated approach of justice and mercy is imperative. By offering a system that not only punishes but also understands, supports, and rehabilitates, we may create a society that is not only just, but also merciful and compassionate. Justice and mercy can dance together in harmony, helping us construct a world that truly respects and values human dignity. How JUMPSTART combines Justice and Mercy Two of JUMPSTART's core values are responsibility and accountability. Each individual is responsible and needs to be held responsible and accountable for their actions. When individuals commit crimes that harm others they need to experience justice. However, if all they experience is justice without mercy, then how will they get their lives back on track? When justice is coupled with mercy, men and women can learn from their mistakes and have transformational opportunities to thrive after their incarceration. When men and women are discipled through JUMPSTART's 40-week in prison program and then have transitional support upon their release, they can move forward with their lives in a way that benefits all of society. Mercy shown through discipleship, transitional housing, transportation, mentoring, employment opportunities, and life-skills training helps men and women reach their God-given potential and enables them to be a blessing to the community. To learn more about JUMPSTART's model visit here. To get involved helping JUMPSTART show mercy and provide transformational opportunities visit here. By: Dr. Cary Sanders
- More than "Prison Ministry": Biblical Stories That Champion What is Possible
The Christian journey invites us all to participate in God’s transformative work. When someone chooses to support JUMPSTART, they join in on God's mission of profound impact. JUMPSTART is committed to discipling incarcerated individuals and providing essential transitional services upon their release. Drawing on biblical stories that echo JUMPSTART's mission, we can see the powerful impact that can be made through such a partnership. Guiding the Lost Sheep Back to the Fold By supporting JUMPSTART, someone becomes a part of the shepherd's mission in the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7), actively guiding the lost back into the fold. Their aid helps individuals to overcome past mistakes and successfully transition back into society, mirroring the shepherd's joy at the return of the lost sheep. Living the Golden Rule When someone applies the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12, "do to others what you would have them do to you," their support ensures the extension of empathy, respect, and care to the program's participants. They become instrumental in providing the much-needed assistance for the participants' journey, from incarceration to reintegration into society. Becoming a Good Samaritan in Action Contributions to JUMPSTART enable someone to embody the enduring compassion of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Like the Samaritan who not only rescues the injured man but ensures his recovery, their support allows JUMPSTART to provide continuous assistance to its participants during and after their imprisonment. Volunteer opportunities with JUMPSTART allow someone to serve as a Good Samaritan in action. Offering the Living Water of Hope and Renewal Support for JUMPSTART allows someone to partake in Jesus's mission in the story of the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-26), offering the 'living water' of hope and renewal to those burdened by their past. Their aid ensures this life-sustaining water continues to flow even after the individuals are released, nourishing their path towards a new beginning. Building Bridges of Forgiveness and Reconciliation Like Joseph Like Joseph's commitment to his family despite their past actions, support to JUMPSTART ensures a sustained commitment to its participants throughout their transformative journey. Someone supporting this program becomes a part of building bridges of reconciliation, enabling individuals to move beyond their past and embrace a hopeful future. Fostering Transformations Like Paul’s The story of Saul's transformation into Paul (Acts 9:1-19) speaks volumes about God's unwavering faith in our capacity for change. In today's world, the media headline about Saul would be, "A terrorist in Syria capturing Christians." Yet, an encounter with Jesus changed everything. By supporting JUMPSTART, someone partner's with God in ensuring the God news is shared with those who are far from God. The donor and volunteer become a part of enabling transformative journeys that change the course of lives, just as Paul's was changed. Supporting JUMPSTART transcends the act of giving and serving. It ushers someone into a divine partnership, aligning them with God's mission of redemption, forgiveness, and transformation. With every contribution, they become a part of real-life stories that reflect the essence of biblical teachings, and facilitate life-changing new beginnings. This is more than a call to action—it's a unique opportunity to make a tangible difference, experience the fulfillment of partnership with God, and witness the power of transformative love. By partnering with JUMPSTART, someone steps into an extraordinary journey of impact, shaping futures, and turning the tide for those who are yearning for a second chance. I'd love the opportunity to discuss opportunities to partner with all God is doing through JUMPSTART. You can learn about opportunities to serve with JUMPSTART by clicking here or you reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Join us in the exciting journey by volunteering or giving, By: Dr. Cary Sanders P.S. - If you have ten minutes, watch the video below if you want to see two stories of life change that were made possible because people decided to partner with what God is doing through JUMPSTART.
- Impact Matters in Philanthropy
In the vast expanse of philanthropic causes, discerning donors often find themselves at crossroads, trying to determine which cause is the most 'worthy'. Yet, as worthy as any cause may be, an important question to consider is whether a donation to a particular non-profit organization will contribute to the actual solution of a problem. This is where the concept of impact becomes critical: it's not just about the worthiness of a cause, but more importantly, about the effectiveness of the organization that's working towards it. The Nuance of Worthy Causes Every cause championed by non-profit organizations is intrinsically worthy: eradicating poverty, preserving the environment, promoting education, prison ministry, and so on. However, the worthiness of a cause does not inherently guarantee the effectiveness of the non-profits working for it. It's possible that well-intentioned organizations, despite their passion for their cause, lack effective strategies, solutions, or execution. When this is the case, the donations they receive might inadvertently go towards perpetuating ineffective programs rather than directly addressing the problems at hand. The Importance of Measuring Impact This is why measuring impact is crucial in philanthropy. Impact, in this context, signifies the actual, tangible change that an organization is able to effectuate with its resources. It speaks to the effectiveness of the organization’s strategies and execution, painting a clear picture of how efficiently it is translating its resources (including donations) into results. Evaluating the impact allows donors to understand whether their money is making a real difference. Are the strategies employed by the non-profit effective in addressing the cause they champion? Is there a noticeable change that can be attributed to the organization's work? Answering these questions helps ensure that the donor's money is contributing towards a solution, rather than merely sustaining an organization. Verification of Impact The process of verifying impact requires transparency and accountability from the organization. Non-profits need to provide evidence of their effectiveness, which can take the form of quantitative data, such as statistics demonstrating improvements, or qualitative data, like testimonials from those who have benefitted from their initiatives. Verification of impact can reveal whether a non-profit has an effective solution to the problem they are addressing. It's an indication of whether the organization is a viable vehicle for donors to contribute towards the cause it champions. Moving Towards Impact-Driven Philanthropy The shift towards an impact-driven approach in philanthropy promotes more efficient use of resources. Rather than just keeping a non-profit afloat, donors can ensure their contributions are fueling meaningful change. It also encourages non-profit organizations to be more solution-oriented, continually evaluating and improving their strategies to increase their effectiveness. In conclusion, while the cause an organization represents is undeniably important, it should not be the sole factor guiding donation decisions. The effectiveness of an organization, demonstrated through the impact of its initiatives, is arguably even more critical. By prioritizing impact, donors can make informed decisions that ensure their contributions are not just supporting worthy causes, but also fostering effective solutions. After all, philanthropy is not merely about intention; it's about making a real difference. By: Dr. Cary Sanders P.S. If you'd like to discuss JUMPSTART's undeniable impact, I'd love the opportunity for us to talk. You can reach me at email@example.com A Few Witnesses that Testify to JUMPSTART's Impact Read: An Expert Witness- Retired SC Supreme Court Justice E.C. Burnett III Watch: South Carolina Department of Corrections Leader, Bryan Stirling testifies to JUMPSTART's impact and shares he tells other national correctional leaders to come see JUMPSTART.
- Jeff hasn't had a license in years...
Jeff hasn't had a license in years. After leaving incarceration, he needed employment that didn't require transportation. He also needed an opportunity to prove that he had put his past behind him and was moving forward in life. He just earned his Driver's License! Thanks to Craig Penland, CEO of Eurolink Fastener Supply Service, for trusting our Landscaping team with all installation needs at their brand new headquarters set to open in early August! We are thankful for the many businesses and individuals who are providing transformational opportunities by trusting our team with their landscaping needs. Earning a driver's license after being incarcerated represents a significant milestone in the process of reintegrating into society. Not only does it symbolize regained freedom and mobility, but it also fosters self-sufficiency and independence, which are key aspects of rehabilitation. Moreover, a driver's license serves as a practical tool in facilitating job seeking, enabling one to expand their job search geographically and access opportunities that may have been unreachable previously. It signifies a concrete step in the journey towards personal redemption and societal reintegration, providing the tangible validation of the progress made and the resilience shown in the face of past adversity. Additionally, it enhances one's self-esteem and reaffirms their capacity to lead a normal, productive life post-incarceration. Ultimately, this milestone is a testament to the power of second chances, underlining the potential for change and growth, even in the aftermath of significant life challenges. When lives that are off track have transformational opportunities, we ALL win! If you are in the Greenville - Spartanburg, SC area and have landscape maintenance or installation needs reach out to Justin Durrell at firstname.lastname@example.org
- A Story Worth Sharing
God's ability to rescue and restore is unparalleled. When someone has hit rock bottom, why shouldn't they just give up? Watch this video to be encouraged, inspired, are reminded that nothing is impossible with God. JUMPSTART is building transformational opportunities for the incarcerated and returning citizens because when lives that are off track experience restoration, we ALL win.
- An Ivy League Ph.D. and Corporate Executive to Prisoner and Back
Imagine this: You head to work one day with a tape recorder taped to your chest, another hidden in your briefcase, and a third tucked away in a plain notebook. Your heart races as you think about secretly recording conversations with your bosses, your coworkers, and even your friends. Now think about doing this every single day for three years straight. This was my life from 1992 to 1995. I was working undercover for the FBI to expose the biggest price-fixing scandal in the history of the United States. I was a top executive at a Fortune 500 company, but I also was the highest-ranking executive ever to become a whistleblower, calling out the wrongdoings I saw. I was a whistleblower for Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). ADM was the 56th largest company on the Fortune 500 list and was a massive player in the food additive industry worldwide. They made more than $70 billion yearly and had over 30,000 employees. You'd find ADM's ingredients in everyday foods and drinks, like Kellogg's cereals, Kraft Foods, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi. I started working at ADM in 1989 when I was just 32 years old. They made me president of the bio-products division, making me the youngest person to ever lead a division in the company's history. Within three years, I climbed the ladder even higher and became a corporate vice president and officer. The experts at Fortune Magazine even thought I was on track to become the next Chief Operating Officer and President of ADM once the current president, who was 70, retired. Being a top executive at one of America's biggest companies came with amazing benefits. Between my salary and my stock options, I was making millions every year. I could use the company's jets whenever I wanted. I had a beautiful wife and three kids, and we lived in a mansion and sent our kids to the best private schools. From the outside, it looked like I had everything anyone could want. I was living the American Dream—the best of what the world could give. People would drive by our house and say, "Mark Whitacre has it all!" But what they didn't know was that, inside, I felt like there was something huge missing from my life. The reason I decided to expose ADM came down to my wife, Ginger. We both grew up in small towns in Ohio. My parents still live in the house where I was raised. I met Ginger in middle school when we were both in the band. We started dating in high school, and we were even crowned homecoming queen and king in 1975, my senior year. We've been inseparable ever since, and recently, we celebrated our forty-third wedding anniversary. In 1992, Ginger started noticing changes in me. I had been involved in price-fixing at the company for about seven months, although the company had been doing it for over ten years before I joined. This job took over my life, and she could tell I wasn't happy. I was always wanting more, no matter how much money I made. Ginger, however, had something to lean on—her faith. She had a strong relationship with Christ since she was thirteen. In contrast, I would go to church, but I didn't really feel connected. If you asked me in 1992 if I was a Christian, I'd say, "Yes, I go to church almost every Sunday." On November 5, 1992, Ginger decided to dig a little deeper into our conversations. She felt something was bothering me and started asking questions: What's happening at work? Why are you so intense? Why do you seem so unhappy? She encouraged me to open up, and that's when I confessed to the illegal activities at ADM. I explained how we were colluding with our competitors to fix the prices of key ingredients. We had essentially formed an international cartel, stealing billions from our customers, which then passed the cost onto everyday people buying groceries. I had been part of this federal crime for the past seven months, learning how to maximize profits in the division I was overseeing. I should clarify that ADM isn't a bad company. Most of the 30,000 employees go to work each day and do the right thing. But in the early '90s, some top executives, including me, were doing illegal things, staining both the company and our hometown, Decatur, Illinois, with our greed. When Ginger heard what I had done, she said I needed to go to the FBI. I warned her that I could go to jail and we might lose everything. But she said she'd rather be homeless than live in a home bought with stolen money. She insisted, "Either you go to the FBI, or I will." And I believed her. Within an hour, I was confessing to an FBI agent. But it was Ginger who was the real whistleblower. If it hadn't been for a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom with three young kids, the biggest price-fixing scandal in U.S. history might never have been exposed. What would you do in this situation? Would you turn a blind eye and continue moving up the corporate ladder, enjoying the perks and financial security? Or would you do what my wife insisted I do—admit to being part of a major crime and risk losing everything? After graduating high school in 1975, I went to Ohio State University (OSU). In my second year there, I got into a special honors program that allowed me to start working on my Master's Degree early. I finished my Master's Degree at OSU with honors in 1979 and got a full scholarship to Cornell University, an Ivy League school known for its strong science programs. I studied nutritional biochemistry, with minors in biochemistry and international nutrition, and got my Ph.D. in May 1983. But getting a Ph.D. from Cornell wasn't enough for me—I went on to get several more graduate degrees. After I finished at Cornell, when I was in my mid-20s, I thought, "Wow, I'm a really smart guy. I can make millions of dollars with this brain." I was super ambitious and couldn't wait to dive into the world of big business. I took a job at Ralston Purina in St. Louis, Missouri, and within two years, I got an offer from a huge company called Degussa Chemicals (which is now called Evonik) that I couldn't turn down. After another two years, they moved me to their global headquarters near Frankfurt, Germany, so I could get some international experience. In 1989, while working on a joint venture with ADM, I became friends with some of the top executives who eventually offered me a new job. Within a few years, I was lined up to become the COO and president of ADM. That was the plan until everything changed. After admitting to my part in this global price-fixing scam, I secretly agreed to work for the FBI. This double life was incredibly stressful. For instance, during the day, I'd act like a dedicated executive, helping to build the company. But in the evenings, I'd be working to bring it down. At 6 a.m., I'd meet with the FBI. They'd shave my chest to attach tiny microphones and check the batteries in the tape recorders hidden in my briefcase and a special FBI notebook. Throughout the day, I'd record conversations with my colleagues. Then, from 6 p.m. to midnight, I'd meet the FBI at different hotels to hand over the tapes and go through what felt like never-ending debriefings. The price-fixing meetings weren't just at ADM's headquarters in Decatur, Illinois. They were happening all over the world: in places like Paris, Mexico City, Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Zurich, and I recorded all of them with three audio devices. But the prosecutors wanted the jury not just to hear the evidence, they wanted them to see this illegal plan in action. That's where a special FBI lamp came in. This lamp looked like something you'd pick up at a garage sale. It was used to record video footage. I'd tell the FBI when and where the meetings were happening, and they'd make sure the green lamp was positioned perfectly in the room before the meeting started. It's funny, all of us involved were men. If a woman had been there, she would've noticed right away that this green lamp didn't fit with the fancy decor at a Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, a Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, or a Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. And she would've noticed this odd green lamp seemed to be following us everywhere. But greed can make you blind. We had guys stealing billions of dollars, and they didn't see what was happening right under their noses. For a meeting in Tokyo, the FBI was worried that the Japanese government might try to protect Japanese companies if they knew about the investigation. Several of the companies we were conspiring with were based in Japan. So for that meeting, I had a tiny Radio Shack tape recorder that used 90-minute micro-cassettes. Our meetings usually lasted at least three hours, so every 45 minutes, I'd check my watch and excuse myself to the restroom to flip the tape. I was the only one going to the restroom like clockwork, and no one even noticed! After two years of secretly recording conversations for the FBI, I was burnt out. I was so mixed up, I couldn't tell if I worked for the FBI or ADM. I was losing control, almost like I was having a nervous breakdown. One night during a terrible thunderstorm, I found myself out on our driveway at 3:00 a.m., trying to clear leaves with a leaf blower while still in my shirt and tie. Ginger heard the noise from our bedroom and came outside under an umbrella. She shouted over the noise of the blower, "You need to come back inside. You need to come back to your family. But more than anything, you need God in your life." "Who needs God?" I shot back. "I'm about to become the president of the 56th largest company in America." She looked angrier than I'd ever seen her. As she's said in TV interviews over the years, "Divorce was never an option, but murder was." She told me, "I'm proud that you're working with the FBI, but you're not going to be president of ADM. You need to understand that. Once they find out you're the informant, you won't be able to stay at ADM. You're bringing down the top three executives; they might go to jail. You're going to be fired when they find out what you've done. You need to accept that." She left me standing alone in the driveway, and I knew she was right. There was no way I could stay at ADM. But the thought of losing my position and income was unthinkable. I was hooked on success. I was obsessed with material wealth. I started thinking about how to protect myself. I decided to steal what would have been my severance pay, $9.5 million. But what if ADM found out? If they accused me, I thought I had the perfect defense. How can you charge me with stealing millions when you're stealing billions? And you're making me be part of this illegal price-fixing scheme! I felt invincible, so I decided to submit several fake invoices to ADM from companies that I owned, until they paid me $9.5 million. I didn't tell anyone, not even Ginger. I thought I was protecting myself, but really I was just isolating myself and causing more damage. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end..." Looking back, I should've talked to someone. In exchange for secretly recording conversations, I had been given complete immunity from any criminal charges as long as I didn't break any laws the FBI wasn't already aware of. But when ADM found out I was the informant in June 1995, they quickly told the FBI and the media that I had stolen $9.5 million. My cover was blown. I lost my immunity deal. The agents I'd worked with for almost three years could have turned their backs on me, but instead, they continued to support me. They helped me find a great lawyer and worked behind the scenes to help me negotiate a plea deal. They argued to the prosecutors that: I was the highest-ranking executive in U.S. history to become a whistleblower. If they prosecuted me, how would the FBI ever get another whistleblower to come forward? I made some really bad choices but made them when I wasn't in a good mental state. FBI agents who go undercover are trained for years to do that kind of work and they get regular mental health support to help them handle leading a double life. I didn't get any training or support. After hearing these arguments from the agents and my lawyer, the prosecutors agreed to a plea deal of three years. But there was more to the deal. There would be a sentencing hearing where the agents would make the same arguments to the judge that they made to the prosecutors. My lawyer thought I would end up with a six-month prison sentence. He called Ginger and me into his office in Chicago to discuss what he called "the deal of a lifetime." But I shot myself in the foot. I turned down the deal and fired my lawyer. I hired new lawyers and started preparing for a trial. A year later, I ended up with a 10½ year sentence. I should have listened to my Chicago lawyer. I should have been more humble. The choices I made when I was only thinking about myself were coming back to bite me. How was I going to survive ten years in prison? How would my family make it without me? I was starting to lose all hope. In the federal prison system, there's no parole. If you behave well, you might get your sentence reduced by 15%, but parole was eliminated in the mid-1980s. This meant I was looking at serving eight years and eight months in federal prison. What scared me the most was how this would affect my family. How would they manage without me? Would they even want to keep going without me? I had already missed so much of their lives. I was going to prison at 41 and wouldn't be released until I was 49. When I was secretly recording conversations for the FBI, I was up early in the morning and late at night, on top of my day job at ADM. I hardly ever saw my kids. Alex was twelve when I went to prison. Tanya was just starting college, and Bill was only four months away from finishing high school. My own selfishness and arrogance had stolen away the stability and security I should have provided for my family. Almost all the people in prison who were married and serving sentences of five years or more ended up divorced. I didn't see how my marriage could survive this. How would they support themselves? Ginger hadn't worked in over ten years, and we had lost everything in the ADM case: our house, cars, stocks, and savings. I wondered if I would ever find work again as a convicted felon. And on top of all these worries about my family, I also wondered if the four FBI agents would ever forgive me for lying to them? In the months leading up to my prison sentence, I was emotionally and spiritually drained. I didn't want to live and wasn't even sure if I deserved to. I knew that my life insurance policy would pay out if I took my own life, so in desperation, I tried to kill myself twice. These attempts landed me in the hospital and I spiraled deeper into depression. Eventually, I was diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder. At the time, I was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, serving as the CEO of a different biotech company, not ADM. A guy named Ian Howes, who was the CFO in the same industry, had heard about my situation and my attempts to end my life. He was part of a group for businessmen called Christian Business Men's Connection (CBMC). In September of 1997, Ian reached out to me and became my friend. He genuinely cared about me and listened to my story without any judgment. There was something special about Ian that I hadn't seen in any of my other friends. He stuck around when all my other friends had left me. We would meet up, read the Bible, and use a unique study program called Operation Timothy. He made me think about the teachings of Christ – who He was, what He did, and why it mattered. Ian also made me consider my purpose in life, giving me a flicker of hope during those desperate times. He spent time with me each week, planting seeds of faith that would eventually lead me to Christ. During the time I was learning from Ian in 1997, I also did a lot of research on what other respected scientists had to say about God. As a Ph.D. scientist, the opinions of other scientists mattered to me. I was deeply moved when I discovered that Albert Einstein believed that God created the universe and man, and that he thought the big bang theory was impossible. Sir Isaac Newton, another scientist I greatly admired, also saw God as the master creator, whose existence couldn't be denied given the grandeur of all creation. On March 4, 1998, I entered federal prison in Springfield, Missouri with the inmate number 07543-424. I was later moved to a prison in Yazoo, Mississippi. Chuck Colson, who used to work for President Nixon and was the founder of Prison Fellowship, reached out to me and came to visit. Chuck, along with Ian Howes, became my mentors, sharing the same biblical truths that Ian had taught me. They said that God loved me and could forgive me, no matter what mistakes I had made. At first, I thought my mistakes were too big for God to forgive. But they explained how God sent His only Son, Jesus, to live on earth and die on the Cross to pay for my sins, so that I could be made right with God. I learned from the Bible that I could have eternal life by believing in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and that He was raised from the dead. That's when I got it! For the first time, I understood that being a Christian isn't about going to church every Sunday or what I did or didn't do, but about having a relationship with God. In June 1998, in a prison cell, I knelt down and confessed to God that I am a sinner, and I asked Him to forgive me. I told God that I fully understood that His son, Jesus, came to earth to die on a cross for my sins. That day, June 4, 1998, was the first time in my life that I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I finally felt peace. Even though I was just three months into a ten-year sentence, I felt content for the first time in my life. The emptiness in my life that I had tried to fill with money, big houses, cars, and professional success was finally satisfied. Before going to prison, I thought it would be the end of my life, but it turned out to be the start of my life. I trusted God to take care of things and put my burdens on His shoulders. Unlike the first forty-one years of my life, from that day forward, I would I would strive to know Him, love Him, and serve Him. I gave my life to Christ Jesus and started an amazing journey. Obviously, I was still suffering the consequences of my actions, but right away God took away the depression and thoughts of suicide and replaced it with peace, contentment, and hope. He followed that with miracles. First, God preserved my marriage. You will recall that 99% of those incarcerated five years or longer get divorced. I was incarcerated almost double that time, and not only did my marriage survive, it thrived. Over the course of my sentence, I was relocated 3 times, and each time my wife and children moved near the prison and visited me every week. The visiting hours in federal prison camps are from 5 pm to 8 pm on Friday evenings and 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday and Sundays. Basically 17 hours per weekend. My family came every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holiday for nine years. Ginger never missed. Another author who wrote a book about my case calculated the days Ginger spent visiting me: three years and eight months! Because of her faith in Jesus Christ, her love for me never wavered. Ginger has put a whole new meaning to "Stand by your man." No one can tell me it is not a miracle that I am still married. Second, God provided for my family while I was in prison. In August of 1998, Ken Adams, an attorney from a prestigious a law firm in Washington, D.C., contacted Ginger to inform her that companies such as Tyson Foods, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Kraft, who had won hundreds of millions of dollars in class action suits against ADM, wanted to assist our family while I was in prison. They set up a trust fund that allowed Ginger to go back to college to finish her degree. She became an elementary school teacher and was teacher of the year in 2007 in Pensacola, Florida. The trust fund also assisted with our children's college education, house payments and other bills. So the victims of a fraud case assisted the perpetrator's family. Thirdly, God gave me another job. Even with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, I would be coming out of prison a convicted felon and forty-nine years old. At 8 a.m. on December 21, 2006, I was released from prison. On the following day, I was hired by Paul Willis, CEO of Cypress Systems, Inc. Paul Willis is a Christian CEO on the Advisory Board of the Fresno CBMC, and Cypress is a biotech company dedicated to cancer research. For me to be hired back into this industry so quickly (and to be hired into a company with a Christian CEO) was indeed another one of God's miracles. During the past few years, I have also become very active in CBMC (Christian Business Mens Connection), as a Marketplace Ambassador, presenting my testimony at Annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast events around the country. In addition, I present my story of redemption and second chances at other business events around the country. Fourthly, how would those four FBI agents ever forgive me? Although I betrayed FBI agents and stole $9.5 million while under the immunity agreement, the government was able to successfully prosecute their case against the top executives of ADM. Shortly after I entered prison, some of the FBI agents contacted me and some even visited me in prison. They have become some of my strongest supporters. Today, all four of these FBI agents and a former prosecutor have written letters to the White House in support of a full presidential pardon. Over the past few years, I have often conducted training sessions for the FBI on going undercover, and in 2011 was the guest speaker at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. And during the past couple years, the FBI agents have conducted numerous TV and other media interviews including a 2010 Discovery Channel documentary where they "tout Mark Whitacre publicly as a national hero for his substantial assistance with one of the most important white- collar cases in history." These FBI interviews are archived on website: www.markwhitacre.com. I am certainly no hero, but I appreciate the FBI's support and count it a miracle. Of course, a presidential pardon would be welcome. I have paid my debt to society for my crimes at ADM: the 9-year sentence for my family and me, the humiliation, the loss of all our material wealth, comfort and financial security. But those nine years did not pay for sins, for my rebellion against God. In other words, the punishment given to me by the U.S. Government did not deal with the fact that I am a sinner who needs God's forgiveness. The Bible says, "It's your sins that have cut you off from God" (Isaiah 5:2a NLT). Because of God's grace and the price that Christ paid for my sins, I have been eternally pardoned. A signed pardon by a U.S. President would pale in comparison. God has handled my burdens. He has changed my life. I was once obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder and possessed by greed, and now I find great joy in serving others. While in prison, I taught inmates how to read, conducted GED classes and helped several inmates write letters to their family members. I was also able to mentor numerous men using CBMC's Operation Timothy. I can truly say that I was happier in prison making $20 per month helping others, than in the corporate world earning 7-figures for myself. But, understand that I live each day with the collateral consequences of my crimes – especially knowing that I put my family through nine years of hell. Although you may not have deceived the FBI or stolen millions, you are a sinner and your sins separate you from God just as my sins separated me from Him. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Good works, money, philosophy, or religion will not make you good enough to have a relationship with God or go to heaven. God is perfect, and we have to be perfect or without sin to get into heaven. Let me give you an analogy from the biotech industry of how we can never achieve perfection. At ADM, one of the main products in our division was lysine. Lysine is an amino acid used as a food and feed additive. Our competitors' lysine had 99% purity. We had an advantage of 99.5% purity and enjoyed the reputation of having the best lysine in the industry. We tried for even higher purity, but no matter what we did, it was impossible to reach 100% purity. In the same way, it is impossible for us to attain the perfection that God requires. But God provided the solution. Jesus Christ bridged the separation between mankind and God when He died on the cross and was raised from the dead. "God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Jesus Christ, Himself man, is between them to bring them together" (I Timothy 2:5 TLB). Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father [God], except through me" (John 14:6). I was living the best life this world has to offer, and I now know that it was not life. On that day in 1998 in my prison cell when I asked for forgiveness and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I experienced redemption and started living. It says in 1 John 5:11-12 (NLT), "And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God's Son does not have life." Mark now serves as the Vice President of Culture & Care at Coca-Cola Consolidated. Mark Whitacre's story is a vivid reminder that we should never underestimate God's ability to rescue, restore, and redeem. Everyone deserves a second chance, an opportunity to learn, grow, and give back. And often, it is in the darkest times that we find the brightest light and the deepest transformations. We are thankful for what God has done in Mark's life and that he is avid supporter of JUMPSTART's mission.