The Life Connections Program was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons in response to the President’s Faith Based initiative. Although there are five programs in the federal system, FMC Carswell represents the only Life Connection Program for female inmates. Chaplain Beverley Ford has served as the Program Manager since the activation of the program in October 2002. Working along with her to recruit and train volunteer mentors is Denise Walker, the institution’s Volunteer Coordinator.
The 76 inmates participating in the Life Connections Program are involved in numerous intense activities designed to prepare them for successful community re-integration. They are assisted in the program by a multi-faith team of spiritual guides and a program facilitator who tracks their day-to-day activities. The spiritual guides lead the participants through a set of workbooks designed specifically for the Life Connections Program. These challenging classes confront the participants in critical areas of their lives and encourage them to make changing decisions.
Each participant meets twice a month with a personal volunteer mentor from the community. These mentors are versed in the components of the program and help to strengthen the principles taught in the classes. The mentors provide a valuable link to the community and assist the participants as the move toward home. Currently the program at FMC Carswell has 78 volunteer community mentors who are dedicated to this task.
To visit the mentoring program on a Tuesday evening is an exciting experience. A mixture of laughter, serious conversation, and tears permeate the room as mentor and protégé talk about the issues facing the Life Connections Program participant. One gets the distinct impression that something special and life changing is happening. The mentoring component of Life Connections moves the inmates out of the workbook and into real life with real and meaningful communication. The goal of the mentoring experience is to assure the participant she is not alone and that there is someone there who believes they are a good person who can contribute in a positive way to society. Whether the issue is emotions, relationships, parenting, or personal spirituality, the mentor joins with the Life Connections participant on their life journey.
The dedicated volunteer mentors in the Life Connections Program are the catalyst to a life changing experience for the participants. The first life connection program class graduated in May 2004 and during the graduation ceremony several of the participants shared how the program had positively impacted their lives. All of them mentioned the enormous impact that the mentors have had on their spiritual journey. Under the capable leadership of Chaplain Ford, the enthusiastic recruitment and training by Ms. Walker, and the wholehearted support of the Executive Staff of Carswell, the Life Connections Program volunteer mentors are a shinning example of people making a difference.