In a message on second chances Sunday at the T.D. Jakes-led Potter’s House in Dallas, Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott praised the work of the church’s Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative for doing a better job of keeping people out of prison than government efforts nationwide.
“You see nationwide on the federal level, the recidivism rate, the percentage of people who get out [of prison] and go back in is 77 percent in five years. Let me say that a little slower. More than three out of four people who get out come back in, in just five years. But T.O.R.I., it tells a different story. T.O.R.I.’s number is 11 percent. Not 30, not 40, not 50, but 11 percent. That’s unheard of,” Scott said in his message that was broadcast on Facebook Live.
The 12-month T.O.R.I., founded by Jakes in 2005, gives returning citizens a second chance at life and provides them with solutions to the many barriers they face upon release from prison.
Statistics from the National Institute of Justice show that within three years of release, about 67.8 percent of released prisoners were rearrested. Within five years of release, the recidivism increases to 76.6 percent. Among rearrested persons, more than half were arrested by the end of their first year out of prison.
For most of the 23,000 graduates of Jake’s T.O.R.I., however, the picture is much more promising.
“Y’all don’t know how special this is. Bishop Jakes, the first lady and the Potter’s House have created a program that has brought the entire state together. To produce results that are the envy of other states. This is a national model. This ain’t playing church this is doing church. And doing church means walking out the doors and letting the people of God, the church, get to work,” Scott said in the presence of the 2019 T.O.R.I. graduates.
“Bishop alluded to this earlier but he didn’t put the meat on the bones when he said, this program, the T.O.R.I. program, reduces recidivism. What he is saying is that there is a way to make our communities safer by doing criminal justice reform,” Scott continued.
“Can you imagine what would happen if we had enough investors, and judges, and sheriffs, and police chiefs, and DAs, and Bishop Jakes all around the country taking the 77 and bringing it to 11 [percent]? That’s how you make the community safer,” Scott said to applause. “And if we do that right, all of God’s people can say amen.”
The First Step Act expands job training and other programming aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners. It also expands early-release programs and modifies sentencing laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, to more equitably punish drug offenders.
“And that’s why I’m excited about the First Step Act, which is a federal legislation, to do what T.O.R.I. is doing here in Texas, in Dallas, in the Potter’s House. If we can do this everywhere, young people who come home, they don’t reoffend. If they don’t reoffend, they’re not committing crimes. If they’re not committing crimes, the community’s safer,” he said, lifting his hands in a rising motion.
“The returned citizen feels a sense of pride about contributing to the community. This is a blessing. Thank you, bishop,” Scott said.
The Republican senator drove home his message to the audience at Potter’s House on Sunday, citing Scripture.
“If you’re like me, you might not have been physically incarcerated but you’ve done enough stuff in your life … where if God does not save you from yourself, you ain’t getting saved. That is why in Romans 7:24 God reminds us that we are able to do some wicked things. Jeremiah 17 says don’t trust your heart, it’s full of wickedness. You see, we could have all been sitting in green (pointing to T.O.R.I. graduates in green gown and cap) had it not been. See we are you and that is why we celebrate you this day,” he told the graduates.
“When you roll in from 7:24 and it hits chapter 8, it reminds us, Romans, that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For those who walk not after the flesh but we have found a way to get into the spirit. And with that transformation, we are made new and I thank God that His mercies are new every day ‘cause I need Him every day. I need a living savior, who meets me in the morning and walks me through the day. And in the evening time, He is still there with me,” he said.
In wrapping up his message to the T.O.R.I. graduates, Scott talked about a time when he struggled with direction in his life at one point and how his mother introduced him to a “switch” which he described as “a southern apparatus of encouragement.”
“I thank God almighty that she whipped my behind and got me on the right path and told me in spite of myself, God was not finished with me yet,” he said.
He then left them with three pieces of advice which he said he had to learn over and over again because he wasn’t a very good student.
“Failure is not fatal if you refuse to quit,” he told the graduates about his first piece of advice.
“Now John 10:10 says there’s a thief that comes to kill, steal and destroy, but there is more to that verse. There’s more to that verse, right? Christ has come that you might have life and have it more abundantly,” he said.
“The second piece, according to Proverbs 31:8 [is] that we have to learn if we want to stand out in life, stand up for people who cannot stand up for themselves, we got to get up for those who cannot do for themselves. And number three is no matter how much Hades comes against you, you’ve got to hold on to your dreams.
“You’ve got to believe that God has got a purpose for your life in the same fashion as Jeremiah 1:5, in that Jeremiah, before he was born, when he was in his mama’s womb, he was hardwired to be a prophet. I believe that each and every one in here but specifically to the T.O.R.I. graduating class of 2019, God has a purpose for your life. And the good news is, He’s just getting started,” Scott added.