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Serving ex-felons through ministry

Everybody deserves a second chance, if you ask Bishop David Allen Hall of Temple Church of God in Christ. 

And on June 19, ex-offenders will graduate from the training and behavior intensive Final Escape program Hall has spearheaded.

On May 15, the Final Escape program, which serves men and women, had its grand opening at the Freedom House at 588 Vance. A number of elected officials, including Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, were in attendance.

“I have worked in prison ministry for 30 years,” said Yvonne Williams, facilitator of the programs. “But Bishop Hall is the visionary who put this whole project together. “It is rewarding for me to see our hands-on program is changing the lives of so many others.”

Life Together was established in 1992 by Hall. Over the years, the organization has worked with youth faced with joining a gang, sponsored anti-violence campaigns, and offered community athletics, and health fair events. 

This latest installment of programs for ex-offenders is part of the Renaissance Project, an outreach ministry for families.

“Final Escape means just what it says,” said Hall. “We want to cut the recidivists rate. “The eight-week curricula being taught provides the same basic message, but adheres to the uniquely different roles of successful men and women. ‘Getting Out and Staying Out’ teaches men and women the life skills to become productive, contributing members of our society.”

The program for men is called, “The Key to Authentic Manhood. For women, the program is called, “Understanding Authentic Love.” Hall’s dynamic prison ministry starts working with inmates while they are still on the inside.

Williams said the most important thing is that people understand that ex-offenders need emergency resources, such as food, clothing and hygiene products.

Bishop David Allen Hall (Courtesy photo)

“We are working to empower these men and women to take personal responsibility for their behavior,” said Hall. “We are teaching them to get out and stay out. I have reached out to different employers to help place program participants into good-paying jobs.

Hall said FedEx is to be commended. A representative came out to talk with both men and women, touting the company’s ability to pay $20 an hour.

“It makes a difference when a person is making a livable wage to take care of his family,” said Hall. “We also show them how to reenter the family. Our virtual graduation  will be held on the ZOOM platform. All of our program participants are not Christian, and we aren’t forcing our beliefs on anyone. But we want them to be better fathers and brothers, better sisters and mothers.”

The ministry of reconciliation, said Hall, is an important component of the program. 

“We help to mend relationships that may have been broken during incarceration,” said Hall. “Our reward is seeing them become independent and productive individuals. This class on the 19th consists of both men and women; 28 will march across the stage. We believe that they will all do well. We start working with them shortly before their actual release.”

“I really enjoy the work,” said Williams. “What I do is from the heart. We want our participants, every one of them, to prosper. Facilitating the two programs (meaning one for the men and one for women) is a full-time job. I am still praying about it, but retirement may be coming soon. I am an evangelist, and I feel called to this work.”

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