By Rev. Vince Valva – Ministry Leader
A first in the State of Delaware!!! On Dec. 10, 2014, we graduated 29 inmates from our CR Inside long-program at Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, DE. How did this happen? It’s an amazing story! A new Chaplain, Rory Russell replaced the recently retired Chaplain. All volunteer programs were suspended for three months for review of effectiveness and need. We were requested to define our program (God’s Way To Recovery, Inc.) in writing and defend its continuance with measurable parameters. We had been running the GWR program for seventeen years in the Boot Camp which was not a part of the Chapel program. After submitting the defense of our program, the Chaplain asked that we bring it to the Chapel as well.
For approximately one year, we ran the GWR program in both venues. During this time, the Chaplain wanted something more to reduce the recidivism rate. He felt the inmates had an ample number of Bible studies, services & preaching, but they were still re-entering at an unacceptable rate. I was leading Celebrate Recovery at our church & suggested he consider it for the Chapel. The Chaplain reviewed the four Participant Guides & after considerable discussion, he embraced the CR-Inside Program. I presented him with a detailed schedule including “Home Run the Movie,” “Words,” “Three Doors” & Paul’s testimony-Vol. 5 followed by the 25 Lessons interspersed with testimonies on tape. We concluded with a graduation ceremony, presentation of completion certificates & a graduate’s live testimony.
This is an amazing story because God was intimately involved in the entire process! Approaching eighty four years of age, I was attempting to minimize my involvement in the Boot Camp Prison Ministry & I was making good progress. About that time the new Chaplain came on board & with both the Boot Camp & Chapel I needed to delay my plans. When Celebrate Recovery entered the picture, I was required to re-double my effort in the Chapel since I was the only one of nine volunteers with CR experience. We truly needed God’s help to get this off the ground. I committed us to achieve a great deal & truly believed God was in this & He would provide the resources to bring it to a successful completion. I was counting on using some of our Boot Camp volunteers as well as seeking new volunteers for the CR program. Surprisingly, the Prison Boot Camp Program was summarily eliminated so all of these volunteers became immediately available & one new volunteer with CR experience also came on board. Hallelujah, God did it!!
Now that we had the bodies, we undertook a crash training course for all volunteers. It was minimal training, but most of these men had been teaching or preaching or counseling for years; I knew them & trusted them. We plunged in to the CR-Inside Program immediately after the training & the rest is history.
The Inmates enthusiastically embraced the worship, lessons & testimonies. They answered the questions & participated in Small Group discussion with intensity & interest. Though struggling with trust, they eventually opened-up enough in Small Group to achieve desired purposes. Enthusiasm was maintained throughout the 25 lessons & 36 weeks it took to complete the program. Sixty inmates started & twenty nine completed the program. Six have submitted written testimonies; three have delivered their testimonies before the group.
The second running of CR-Inside has already begun. Fifty new inmates have signed-up, plus 8 trained inmate leaders, plus 6 trained inmate sponsors for a total class of 64 inmates. We lost 4 volunteer leaders so that we now have 5 volunteer leaders & are seeking new volunteers. Lesson 1 “Denial” was taught last week so, with God’s help, we are on our way again!!
Two difficulties were encountered in running the CR-Inside Program.
1. Space – We broke into four groups all meeting in the Chapel. While separated as effectively as possible, the noise level was high enough to be disturbing to all making hearing difficult at times.
2. Volunteer Leaders - Two Leaders were assigned to each group, I was the alternate. Invariably one and often two of the Leaders could not show up for various valid reasons. Consequently, I filled in as an alternate approximately 85% of the time.