BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)- Thursday afternoon inmates at Lee Correctional Institution received a visit from Greenville Pastor John Gray. Pastor Gray of Relentless Church delivered a message of hope; an element the Department of Corrections is trying to give to its inmates.
A small percentage of inmates with SCDC will spend most of their life behind bars. It’s a sentence that can weaken even the strongest faith.
One inmate at Lee Correctional recapped how he landed in prison. “It was soon later my brother was incarcerated at 16 years old 2 years later me being 17 robbed an owner of a store.”
The inmate continued explaining how this cycle broke his faith and took away his hope.
“For the past 15 years i can really say my family was on the downside bad news bad news after bad news. My brother was sentenced to 45 years. My niece was beat to death so it’s a repetitive cycle and I’m not seeing hope in those situations.”
One of the most common suggestions from lawmakers and prison reform experts was to offer inmates hope, something to look forward to.
The Academy of H.O.P.E does just that. The program was started at the prison just 1 year after a deadly fight. The program focuses on peer mentorship.
“The Academy of H.O.P.E was a program created for SCDC to address violence and improve communication between staff and inmates. We have meetings 5 days a week, 4 hours a day, we do conflict resolution, anger management,” added Andre Norman ,the founder of the Academy of H.O.P.E.
The program also brings in guest speakers like Pastor John Gray.
“Every single one of you was created by the same God who made me. We are all equal. We have equal value,” said Pastor Gray in an emotional address.
The program places inmates classified as “serious offenders” under the same roof; putting aside differences to work towards the same goal.
Norman added, “Hope is important because without it life isn’t sustainable or pleasurable.
“I know before I seen no hope in negative situations, but being in this place for 10 years and learning and growing and learning life. I found hope,” added the inmate, who is participating in the program. He’s been incarcerated for 10 years.
The program has not had any assaults or issues with contraband. 42 men are currently in the program.