The Hope and Redemption Team Gives Incarcerated Men An Opportunity to Heal and Grow

The Hope And Redemption team is made up of seven former California Life Prisoners that are now returning to seven maximum security prisons to provide rehabilitative programs and more importantly hope, inspiration, and living examples of redemption. After being incarcerated for decades, these men have returned and give hope to the hopeless.

The concept of the Hope And Redemption Team came from my belief that former life prisoners could be both an inspiration and a guide to men and women who were currently incarcerated.  This belief stems from personal experience and observation. During my 24 years of incarceration, I observed men in the role of facilitator/leader guiding others to becoming better men by looking within themselves, and working to improve themselves. I recognized that this peer to peer model was a powerful tool.  

On the prison yard, war stories of past criminal activities turned into stories of being on the dean’s list for multiple semesters and conversations of how to better facilitate group discussion in preparation for the transition to freedom. We had deep discussions of how to help the youth in our communities avoid prison and how to be the role models that our youth need.

Upon being released from prison, I was asked how I changed, what helped me become the person that I am today. A big part of it was “Self Help Groups” or rehabilitative programs. Not just any self-help group. For me and many others who I knew, the self-help groups that had the most powerful impact on us were those that were created and facilitated by our peers. Men that walked the yard with integrity and had become powerful role models for the entire population. When they facilitated, they were real, and they created the safe space necessary for men in prison to dig deep within themselves and begin the path of honest self-evaluation, accountability, and ultimately begin to heal.

I suggested that if former life prisoners could go back inside and facilitate groups/programs that had helped us realize change, we would have a truly powerful impact. We would inspire hope and a deep belief that redemption is possible for all who were incarcerated.

In less than a year, the Hope and Redemption Team (H.A.R.T.) has provided rehabilitative programming to over 1,500 men in four maximum security and three medium security prisons in California. The waiting list to attend a Hope and Redemption program is over 1,000, and growing.  

This peer to peer model is unique, and it is definitely a key component to rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.

What do you think?

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Sam Lewis

Sam Lewis

Sam Lewis serves as Director of Inside Programs at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). He leads the Hope and Redemption Team. A team of seven fomer Life Prisoners who go back into six state prisons to provide rehabiliative programs, hope, guidance to redemption, and the possible opportunity for freedom. As a former Life Prisoner Sam understands the various obstacles, challenges, and difficulties the prison and reentry population may face leading him to become a driven outreach ambassador and passionate advocate for the reentry and prison population.

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