Pell Grants Available to Prisoners?

safb_classroomWhile I don’t agree with a lot of what President Obama has done, his latest move to conduct a pilot project to test the possibility of giving Pell Grants to some inmates is a move in the right direction. Check out this article here for more information. For too long, our country has taken the position that warehousing prisoners rather rehabilitating them is the preferred approach. As someone who has seen the effects of this policy firsthand, I can honestly say it is a miserable failure. While there are some risks that come with offering grants and the like (some inmates seek to become better criminals, not better people), I do believe there are enough people in prison who truly want to become productive members of society to justify giving it a try.

I was actually able to take a college-level entrepreneurship certification course through Kent State University when I was at FCI Elkton. I was in the class with about 10 men and I have to say it was a worthwhile course that provided valuable information and education. We walked away with college credit. For some it was the first time they took classes since high school, where most didn’t even graduate.

I hope this pilot is just the first step in a shift toward training and rehabilitation and away from warehousing. Please encourage your congressional representatives to support these types of initiatives.

Prison Entrepreneurship Documentary – The Last Mile

last mileI ran across this documentary short on a technology incubator program in San Quentin called the Last Mile. It is heartening to see people willing to take a chance and step outside of their comfort zone to provide opportunities for inmates, even those who have done a great deal of harm. The fact is, 90 percent of prisoners will get out one day. Do we want them to learn to be better people or better criminals while they are in prison? I would hope we can agree that we are better off when we provide opportunities for these individuals to learn, to think, to gain insight into the fact that there are options to a life of crime.

Through the Paul Project we are working to help individuals and their families prepare for the prison experience, to encourage them to make the decision early to use the time they must serve to improve their chances of success once they are released. And ultimately, to share God’s amazing grace and his ability to transform lives. We would be honored if you would support us in these efforts. Please help us by donating here – Thank you and God bless.

What can Gov. McDonnell expect in prison?

Virginia Governor McDonnell is sentenced to two years in Federal rison

Virginia Governor McDonnell is sentenced to two years in Federal rison

If you’re keeping up with the news about Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell you’ve likely heard he received a two-year prison sentence for accepting bribes. So what can he expect as he and his family prepare for his prison experience? The former governor will likely be allowed to stay out while he appeals his case, but if he does end up going to prison he will probably be sent to a Federal prison camp. There are various levels of incarceration in the Federal system – Maximum is usually at a Penatentiary, then you have a medium facility, medium-low, low and the lowest level of incarceration is the camp.

A camp usually houses inmates who have non-violent/ non-sexually related crimes. Most have no fence around them, unless it is to keep others out, like the one in Atlanta where it is in a rough neighborhood and the homeless would actually sneak into the camp to have a place to sleep. Many camps are on or near military bases where the inmates are allowed to work in various capacities from landscaping to office management. There is usually very little violence in a camp as most of the inmates are nearing release and don’t want to do anything to extend their time.

Gov. McDonnell will likely be able to self-report and have opportunities to work, receive visits, participate in worship services, engage in physical exercise, take or teach continuing education classes, etc. He will have to wear prison-issued clothing and will be subjected to strip searches, drug tests, required to submit his DNA and other such activities required by the Bureau of Prisons.


bible-god-quotes-54There’s a song by Matthew West entitled “Forgiveness” that captures the true struggle it is to forgive, even those we love. The song goes, in part:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness ( – Forgiveness Video

For those with family members facing prison it is probably one of the hardest things you’ll be asked to do. There is so much pain, anger, resentment and sometimes even hate caused by our crimes and their impact on our families. But the first step to surviving the prison experience is to forgive what at times seems like the unforgivable.

And for the one facing prison there is often an urge to blame others for our situation. Whether it is law enforcement, a family member, a “snitch” or someone else, we also must learn to forgive. One person we also need to forgive is ourselves. But the only way we can and should do this is after we’ve accepted full responsibility for our actions and are working to repent of them. Repentance means to turn our back on old behavior and start in a new direction. This repentance is what will ultimately allow those who love us to forgive us.

Another quote on forgiveness, also in the song above is from Lewis B. Smedes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner is you.” Whether you are behind bars or know someone behind bars, forgiveness frees you from the prison of bitterness and allows you to move forward. God bless you!

David Chatham

Waiting is the Hardest Part

prison-cell_1552105cThinking back on those 9 months we had between when I was first investigated and my sentencing words like awful, horrible, painful, fearful and agonizing come to mind. We had no idea what to expect and no one to tell us what we could do to prepare for what was likely going to be a fairly lengthy prison sentence. So how did we handle it? Not very well, to be honest. We did the best we could with what we had, but looking back and knowing what we know now, we could have been so much more productive. The worst part was the waiting for the inevitable. So what can you do to make the most of the time prior to incarceration? Here are a few tips. There are many more to follow in future posts.

1. Don’t lash out at those you love. There are going to be times when the stress is almost unbearable. You’re going to feel like you’re ready to explode with fear, anger and anxiety. Don’t. Instead, find ways to reduce your stress. Work out, run, pray, attend church, seek counseling, read, etc. Do all you can to focus on building up you and your loved ones. This may seem like the darkest time, and it may well be, but it is not the end. We got through it and so can you.

2. Congregate, don’t isolate. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself away from the world. You may want to just shut off the lights, crawl into bed and sleep away the wait. Fight that urge. Get out and do something, anything. Go to the mall, church, a movie, the library, anywhere with people. Isolation breeds fear, congregating breeds hope.

3. Plan ahead. Once you’re in prison you won’t be able to easily manage your finances and other affairs. Take this time to get them in order for you and your family. In prison the most you will likely make is less than $100 per month (a few make more, but it is the exception) so you won’t likely be able to send money home. Do you need to sell your home? (We did). Do you need to down-size? Do you need to sell a car? It will provide much comfort and peace to make these decisions now rather than to wait until you are in prison and your family is left holding the proverbial bag.

4. Get healthy. Prison life is taxing. The food leaves much to be desired, the beds are steel, the facilities are usually spartan and health care makes medicare look like a platinum Obamacare plan. Use whatever time you have prior to prison to get into shape. Lose weight. Tone up. It will not only make your time more productive and help you stay out of medical, it will also help you walk a little taller and feel more confident if/when you are confronted physically.

5. Strengthen your faith. There are many temptations in prison. Preparing spiritually will help you overcome those challenges and avoid the troubles that go along with succumbing to temptation. Connecting with a church, a pastor and others who have a strong faith with also provide you with a support group with whom to communicate during your sentence. Phone calls, letters and email are a huge lifeline for those in prison. Mail call is the most popular time of day. Just one letter can sustain you for days if not weeks. Building relationships before prison can help you feel connected even as you do your time apart from your loved ones.

I read a great quote recently by Rev. Frederick Langbridge –  “Two men look out the same prison bars. One sees mud, the other sees stars.” The better you prepare for the prison experience the more likely you are to see stars instead of mud.