Since 2005, The Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative (T.O.R.I.) has served over 10,000 returning citizens across the State of Texas. In just the last six years alone, T.O.R.I. has shut down eight prisons, bridging economic gaps in urban American — thereby saving the State of Texas five billion dollars.
Founded by Bishop T.D. Jakes and headed up by Tina Naidoo as Executive Director, the T.O.R.I. program provides holistic, wrap-around services in mentorship, education, housing, employment, family reunification, healthcare, and mentorship — fostering positive lifestyle changes in justice-involved individuals.
On March 25th, the 2018 T.O.R.I. graduation was held during Sunday service at The Potter’s House. Commemorating the efforts of over 115 ex-offenders, the program highlighted those who successfully completed requirements post-incarceration, and who have obtained employment, reunited with their families, and/or acquired their own housing.
“We are here for you,” exclaimed Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson to the graduates, as she acknowledged the many Dallas County Court Judges and Justices who attended the ceremony in support.
“The sociological impact of T.O.R.I. is huge because it suggests that we cannot really lift people in the community without a concerted effort,” Bishop T.D. Jakes said. “Faith-based entities should not be left out of the discussion when it comes to [offender] rehabilitation and we cannot do it alone. We have to be in concert with the government and we also have to have the support of corporations, so that ex-offenders can come out and have an opportunity, a good job, a place to stay, and a better way of living their lives.”
Jakes revealed the hardships and struggles of offenders who exit incarceration attempting to seamlessly reintegrate themselves into society. From figuring out GPS directions to operating a cell phone, to a significant change in family dynamics, many ex-offenders need a program like T.O.R.I. to assist with rehabilitation efforts and to ensure low recidivism rates.
Angela Rye, Principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, yet more commonly known in her role as a CNN Political Commentator, was the keynote for the 2018 T.O.R.I. graduation program. “We really need to see this program in every state and every country all over the world,” she said, prior to taking the pulpit. She then went on to deliver a widely received address on “the purpose-filled reset.”
Focused on the theme of a “new beginning”, Rye humorously yet powerfully conveyed a message of hope, inspiration, and motivation to ex-offenders on the impact of having a “hard reset” in life, even post-incarceration. “Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom…for us to realize we need a hard reset,” she claimed. “People will see the old you before the reset…but you are made anew.”
While empathizing that resets often take time, Rye encouraged five ways that the graduates could obtain their hard reset in life: (1) Embrace their purpose; (2) Step into their power; (3) Lean into their humility; (4) Work with compassion; and (5) Go out and change the world.
“I hope that the T.O.R.I. graduates go and stand on initiatives they care about, whether it’s gun control, gun safety, gun reform, mass incarceration, or criminal justice reform,” Rye stated. “I hope that it demonstrates to them in the same way that it has for me – that if we stand up and speak up, things are more likely to change than if you sit down and be silent.”
“So what are you going to do with your new beginning?” Rye concluded. “I encourage you to fight for every freedom that belongs to you.”
For “he who has a WHY to live for, can bear any HOW.”
Photos used courtesy of The Potter’s House, Inc., except for the photo of Tina Naidoo and Bishop Jakes credit to Leah Frazier for Inspire N Style Magazine.