CLEARWATER, FL -- Prison Television Network (PTN)located in Clearwater, FL, is part of Helping Hand International Outreach. The network was launched on November 1 with the primary goal of featuring Christian programming, education programming, adult literacy course, GED preparation, college credit courses and wholesome entertainment. Now it has formed affiliation with Faith TV and the signal is available on AMC 4 K16 digital MPEG2 DVB.
This idea started under the project with Bishop T.D. Jakes with the goal of broadcasting the Potter’s House Wednesday night church service dedicated to prisoners in 120 state prisons in Florida.
PTN founder, Buddy Winsett, remembers his first visit inside high security penitentiaries.
“The experience left me sleepless for months, recounting all the prisoners that I had met, all anxiously awaiting the system to bring them the Wednesday night service. For two hours on Wednesday night, they stopped being a number and were people again, offered hope and love. They were hungry for the Word of God and rehabilitation in their lives. But it was only for two hours. I knew then that I had to find a way to give them a network twenty-four hours a day, offering education, hope, and above all Jesus.”
Winsett adds: “As an institution of rehabilitation, the prison systems in the US are losing ground due to funding problems. The current US prison population is over 2,100,000 individuals and growing. The majority of inmates leave their time of incarceration worse than when they went in.”
In 1994, a study performed by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics collected the following findings:
· Released prisoners with the highest re-arrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).
· The 272,111 offenders discharged in 1994 had accumulated 4.1 million arrest charges before their most recent imprisonment and another 744,000 charges within 3 years of release.
Winsett goes on to say: “One can assume that conditions are worse today than in 1994, as evidenced by the huge jump in inmate population. 674,000 will be released this year, most without being prepared to return to society.”
PTN believes that a direct link with the burgeoning prison population can be made with the moral decline of our society. Winsett says: “As America turned its governmental back on God, the void was filled, and we are reaping the results of that mistake.”
A study performed for the Florida Department of Corrections revealed the following that Christianity has a positive influence on the lives of the inmates:
· Inmates who attend religious services get fewer disciplinary reports than inmates who do not.
· Inmates who attend 10 or more religious activities per month receive disciplinary reports at a rate equal to one third that of inmates who do not attend any religious activities
· Religious services and activities are of interest to an average of 38.0% of the inmate population that are available for attending group activities. Considering that all religious programming is voluntary, this is an astounding rate of participation.
· Institutions that have a chaplain to inmate ratio of one to 500 (or less) have a higher participation rate than institutions where the ratio of inmates to chaplain is higher.
· Institutions for youthful offenders or females have a higher participation rate than institutions for adult males
· Religious programming not only is an essential element to control inmate idleness, it is a cost effective means in providing a safer, more manageable environment. This has proven to be an essential element of inmate rehabilitation.
FaithTV President Jim West believes the involvement in prison ministries fulfills a long-held desire: “Years ago, we prayed for a way to send educational programming into the nation’s prisons. God has answered our prayers with this opportunity with PTN.”