23 Graduate from Prison Fellowship Academy, program hopes to curb cycle of crime

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 7:39 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Nearly 2.1 million men and women are currently behind bars in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. One organization is hoping to make these individuals better citizens while they serve time for crimes they committed.

One year ago, around 30 state penitentiary inmates voluntarily joined the Prison Fellowship Academy. The program’s goal is not to ignore the crimes that were committed, but to break the cycle of crime.

“I caused a lot of hurt and pain in my life, and now I want to try to give it back and do some good,” said one Prison Fellowship Academy graduate.

Last month, 23 individuals in North Dakota graduated from the program.

“Some of the participants that just graduated from our program may not be getting out of prison, but then again we also believe that while they are in prison they can make impacts with other prisoners,” said David Alabi associate director for academy operations, Prison Fellowship Academy.

The inmates are required to stay out of trouble in prison while they work through the course.

“We were here every day. We came to this class. We gave it our all,” said another Prison Fellowship Academy graduate.

The program involves victim-focused discussion, addiction support, and seeks to create a support system and positive coping skills for the inmates.

“I said, what am I going to do if I get out, what am I going to do? My first thought was I could go back to doing what I was doing. But there’s all sorts of skills they teach you for the inside and the out,” said a third Prison Fellowship Academy graduate.

Organizers say they’ve seen inmates make strides to change previous criminal thoughts and behavior.

“It’s beneficial to the public because it reduces the risk of crime in the society, in the city, in the state. You can imagine if we don’t have programs like this in prison, and they go through prison. We say the prison meant to be a correctional facility, which is good, but at the end of the day you find that there are still lots of vices in prison which influence them negatively,” said Alabi.

Several prisoners who completed the program will become mentors as the next group of inmates begin classes.

In 29 states, nearly 3,000 men and women participated in the Prison Fellowship Academy in 2021. The program is solely funded through donations with no cost to taxpayers.

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