By Alana Semuels, The Atlantic.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Inmates in the Little Rock branch of Arkansas Community Correction Center have three options for how to spend their day. They can stay in the prison and do work duty, washing clothes and scrubbing floors. They can get on a work crew outside of prison and do lawn maintenance and highway repair. Or, if they’re lucky, they can get into The Exodus Project, a program that teaches them how to live when they get out according to Christian values.
If they get into Exodus, which only accepts five men each term, they sit in a classroom on the campus of Arkansas Baptist College for four hours a day learning about ethics, recovery, and Jesus. When they get back to prison, they’re given exclusive access to the GED study room, where they can read their workbooks and study the Bible.
Exodus Project participants are often envied by other cellmates, who’ve spent the day working rather than learning, Timothy Duval, a 37-year-old participant, told me.
The program is effective because the volunteers and staff provide extensive resources for people in and out of prison. Inmates have counselors mentoring them, contacts of potential employers on the outside, and other alumni of the program to help motivate them to stay straight. All in all, the programming of the Exodus Project is far more robust than anything the state, or that most other non-profits, offers in jails.
The Exodus Project is an example of a faith-based organization offering services that the state can’t—or doesn’t—provide.