The Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative, a groundbreaking program developed by Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with the graduation of 135 formerly incarcerated individuals.
Last Sunday, the graduates walked across the stage wearing caps and gowns, joining the 10,000 former offenders who have completed their educations and found jobs through the program within the last decade.
"T.O.R.I. is an intensive 12-month case management program that offers six core services: employment, housing, education, family reunification, health care and spiritual guidance. The program helps former inmates transition to life outside the penal system, dramatically increasing chances for success and reducing the likelihood of recidivism," said The Potter's House in a statement made available to the Gospel Herald. "TORI has served more than 10,000 formerly incarcerated individuals returning to Texas. The U.S. recidivism rate is 67 percent of former prisoners re-arrested and 52 percent re-incarcerated within three years of release. The T.O.R.I. program's recidivism rate is at a low nine percent."
Tina Naidoo, a licensed clinical social worker who oversees T.O.R.I., revealed that it costs taxpayers $60 a day to incarcerate people, but it only costs T.O.R.I less than $4 a day to rehabilitate ex-offenders.
"The national average is about 63 percent that return back to prison,'' she told NBC. "Over the last 10 years what we've seen is about eight to 10 percent," she added.
During Sunday's commencement, Jakes addressed the graduates and over 8,000 others, reminding them that "God can pull you out and pull you through things you thought you couldn't get through."
Former NFL Player Ray Lewis gave the graduates advice as the keynote speaker, and advised attendees to set goals and abandon past, negative influences.
"Something must be birthed in you that says 'I'm a conqueror,'" Lewis said."Time to readjust your comfort zone," he said. "Good is fitting in. Great is standing out!"
Following the service, Jakes told reporters that the success of the ten-year-old program never ceases to amaze him.
"Many of those people walking across the stage have never graduated from anything," he said. "It touched me in a deep way...That we kept the program alive sometimes literally by a thread and that it was worth it. That we were able to touch lives in powerful way."
Each graduate also walked away with a copy of Jakes' new book, Destiny, in which he shares his personal experiences in an effort to help others to find their purpose in life.
Speaking with DallasWeekly on Wednesday, Jakes said Destiny will help readers overcome the difficult situations they find themselves stuck in, as well as provide encouragement to people who are going through significant changes in their lives.
The release date for Destiny will be August 4th 2015, and is now available for pre-order be visiting Barnes and Noble or Amazon.