Have you watched the news recently? Meet Garry Newman Jenkins, 56 years old. He’s ex-military, from Humble, TX. and during the many years I knew him he was a likable guy.
After 21 years of incarceration, Garry was awarded parole in April, 2018. He brutally murdered his mother in July, 2018.
What in heaven’s name would compel a man to not only surrender the freedom he dreamed about for two decades, but to literally stab his mother in the back? Garry talked about his mother all the time. He loved her. She made sure he could go to commissary regularly, andashe sent him reading material often.
Garry is a friend of mine, and also one of my students in the Therapon Program, in the Texas Prison System. He was locked up for 21 yrs for God’s sake! bAnd to only enjoy 3.5 months of freedom? It’s heartbreaking.
My spirit has been so heavy…what a senseless, avoidable tragedy. How could something so unavoidable happen?! It happened, in whole or in part because Garry was ill-equipped to resolve life’s challenging situations.
After racking my brain over this terrible tragedy, and crying for my friend who’s life is virtually over, and who murdered the one person in his life who loved him the most, it suddenly hit me…
I came to realize that individuals who have been locked up for long periods of time are getting out of prison, thrust back into a society that has become foreign to them, and then expected to pick up where they left off and navigate life as if they had not been warehoused in a very dark hole for decades.
It dawned on me that newly released inmates who have served long prison terms are getting out with no effective coping skills, no real life application experience, and hardly anyone who cares about them enough to be there for them as they try to acclimate themselves to a new and unfamiliar community. They have no social tools to put in their tool boxes.
Society just expects these ex-offenders not to re-offend, yet without the tools to resolve the challenging situations that often caused them to “offend” in the first place.
Listen, the day-to-day stressful situations that normal citizens face and effectively resolve are very often monumental, and feel overwhelming to those men and women, fresh out of prison, who have not been taught how to resolve conflict in a positive, non-aggressive way. The way conflict is handled in prison is NOT the way “Mr. Joe Citizen” wants it handled out here, I can assure you of that…and yet, nobody understands that if a person isn’t given new ways of living life; new strategies to resolve conflict, they have little choice but to revert back to their old ways of living life, and dealing with conflict.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice does not concern themselves with these critical social issues. They are overcrowded and understaffed, and frankly, underqualified. Therefore, it is up to us.
As a TDCJ certified volunteer, a prison minister, and a dedicated Christian, I feel obligated to do more to help prisoners be better prepared to successfully embrace freedom once they are given it. Prisoners dream about being free, they talk about what great things they are going to do when they are free, and they yearn for that second chance to be the productive citizens they feel they can be.
But without the positive coping skills; the effective communication skills; the proper perspective on life, they are simply too ill-equipped to enjoy the precious freedom they hope and long for.
The Therapon Program is going to bridge this gap. I am developing a theraputic, bible-centered, academic modality that will provide men like Garry Jenkins, the necessary tools to successfully transition into a free society, positively resolve conflict, and have the self-confidence to not only enjoy freedom, but to enjoy freedom for the rest of their lives.
Much of the time long-term offenders, newly released from prison, re-offend because they have not been given the knowledge how not to. Knowledge equals power. Ignorance equals powerlessness. Powerlessness can be very dangerous when an element such as stress is added to it. This can’t keep happening.