DALLAS — There were caps, gowns and diplomas, but this was no ordinary graduation.
Sunday at the Potter’s House the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative (T.O.R.I.) held their annual commencement for ex-cons who have gone through the program.
“This is, to me, what the Gospel is all about,” said Bishop T.D. Jakes. “It is the Word made flesh to reach out and to care for those that have been left behind or left out of the system.”
T.O.R.I. provides those who have just left the prison system with reintegration education, from financial help to teaching technical skills to help catch former prisoners up on technological advancements since they’ve been locked up.
The results are clear, too. In the US 52% of prisoners will be reincarcerated within 3 years of their release. That number plummets to 11% for the TORI program.
“There really is promise in rehabilitation, in changing our criminal justice system and here in Texas we are all about reform,” said the executive director of T.O.R.I., Tina Naidoo.
Noted political activist Angela Rye gave the day’s commencement address, and stressed the importance of changing our mindsets when it comes to rehabilitating past offenders.
“This is a reset opportunity for them, that’s my message for these folks today,” Rye said. “And I know that they’re going to go out and make it better for everyone who’s similarly situated, for everyone who’s having a similar experience that they had while they were incarcerated.”
Yep, it’s all about second chances, and Sunday morning these former inmates got to walk in front of local judges, who read out their names, not for sentencing but for a diploma and a new lease on life.