TYLER, Texas (KETK) – You commit a crime, you spend time in jail, and then get released. But what happens next? One East Texas organization is trying to help ex-cons adjust to their new life on the outside.
The organization, “Building Relationships in East Texas”, or BRET, held it’s first “100 Faces of Freedom” event in Tyler on Sunday. The even allows ex-offenders to talk about what landed them behind bars, and how easy it is to return to life on the outside.
“In ’02 I was sixteen, had just turned sixteen, and I got locked up,” Patrick Seymour said to a crowd inside John Valley Church.
Growing up in California, the only life Seymour knows is behind bars.
“I just asked myself a question, is this your life? Is this what you want? Is this really what you want because I know where this is going to end,” said Seymour.
Every year, more than half a million inmates are released from prison, but at least one-third of them return within three years.
“Throughout my entire time being incarcerated I had been straddling this fence of giving myself to God or giving myself to the homies,” explains Seymour.
Growing up in a predominantly single-parent household, Seymour moved around a lot, and at just 11-years-old, he became involved in a local gang.
At the age of 16, Seymour was arrested for many crimes, the most significant, carjacking.
After serving two years, he was moved to state prison, where he would spend his entire 20’s in correctional facilities.
Now out of prison, he is making it his life goal to share his story about how he found Christ, and how he changed his life around.
Building Relationships in East Texas says once former inmates are free, many of them turn around and commit another crime. This is a stigma they believe needs to end.
“This is what we need to do, we need to start talking about it, in order to make a difference and in order to make a change in these men and women’s life,” explained BRET President, Kimberly Smith.
Smith said one of the biggest struggles for former inmates is adjusting to life on the other side of the fence.
“In some people’s cases it 10, 15, 20 years, we cannot expect for them to know what we know,” explains Smith.
Dealing with life after incarceration is something Smith knows well, waiting 20 years to marry her husband, the entire time he was behind bars.
Now, the couple shares their story of triumph and how the system changed their lives in a good way. Stating it was the wake-up call he needed.
“People who have made mistakes, you have made errors, but just like all of us, the same God that forgave us and gave us another chance, is willing to do that for them,” explains Pastor Melton Timmons, John Valley Church.
Pastor Melton says his church is partnering with BRET to hold the event because he believes every single person, no matter their past, has a second chance in the eyes of the Lord.
The purpose of the event is to let East Texans know this isn’t a handout, but a hand up, as they continue with life after lockup.