A Tennessee prison program designed to help inmates become better fathers graduated nearly 40 inmates Friday.
The selected inmates graduated from the Malachi Dads program at the Morgan County Correctional Complex, which teaches inmates decision-making skills and fosters personal growth so inmates can become better fathers, WBIR reported.
“I picked the streets before my family, and this program has shown me that God is first, then my family second,” inmate Darryl Wiseman said.
For the past year, Wiseman has been taking classes facilitated by volunteer mentors of the program.
The program culminates Saturday with the Returning Hearts Celebration, where the fathers reunite with their families in the prison yard and participate in carnival-like activities with them.
“I think I’m going to cry real hard first,” Wiseman said ahead of Saturday’s celebration. “I’m going to be nervous to see them because I want them to see a new side of me. They’re going to be able to see that I have that glow, that I have that light and that I’m walking for him now, for Jesus. They’re going to see the gentler side of me.”
Wiseman, who has served three years out of a 12-year sentence, says he found purpose in life as a result of these classes.
“It changed my life, it really did. If changed me on how to be a man and a father to my children,” he said.
Robert Reburn, a public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Corrections, said there is no statistical data to measure the impact of the program but stated that corrections officers have noticed inmates’ behavior change because of programs like Malachi Dads.
“We can say for a fact that offenders who are still in our custody and enrolled in these programs are less argumentative, they get less discipline, they cause fewer problems and they are overall much more well behaved than those who are not participating,” Reburn said.
Other states have similar programs implemented in their prisons, mostly organized by faith-based ministries.