Program gives children of inmates a chance for hope - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Program gives children of inmates a chance for hope

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KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

While many families across the Midlands celebrate holidays at church and at home, some have no choice but to celebrate behind bars.

This weekend brought a different kind of joy to those who often do not have much to look forward to.

"Some of you had given up hope, and I'm here to tell you don't give up hope," says Warden Cecilia Reynolds.

Reynolds gets emotional addressing a crowd of murderers, sex offenders, and other convicts paying for their crimes at Kershaw Correctional Institution.

Many of them, like Damon, haven't seen their children in years.

Damon has been serving time for involuntary manslaughter since 2009 and says he's lost a lot of valuable time to be a dad.

But on this special day, the 36-year-old and the others can make up for lost time and ask for forgiveness.

"This is a huge day of your life," Reynolds says to the group.

In the next room, there are dozens of children, including Damon's two boys who are 11 and 5.

"The toughest criminal in the United States, or in existence, when you bring their child in to them, it will change their life," says Reynolds.

At the emotional reunion, there's time for talking, pictures, and plenty of hugs.

Not to mention, each child gets a full college scholarship too.

"As the children walked in, you can see some of these children didn't know how their fathers looked," says Cyril Prabhu with Proverbs 22:6 Ministries. "You have to step in there to say, 'This is your father.' And to the father, 'This is your children.'"

Prabhu's group, Proverbs 22:6 Ministries, started a program at Kershaw back in 2012.

"The Bible says, 'If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from heaven, I will forgive their sins, and I will heal their land.' What this land needs, right now, is a healing," Prabhu says.

But Prabhu says his mission is rooted in statistics.

Without any intervention, he says 82 percent of the kids, whose father is in prison, would end up in prison themselves.

As for the inmates, he says his program is preventing them from coming back once they get out.

"Even while they're in prison, the difference that it makes if they have that family connection, it will determine how behavior is while he's incarcerated," says Reynolds.

Prabhu says his work isn't done at this prison and others.

"We are creating a nation full of people that would have been slated to go to prison, but now, that paradigm has shifted," says Prabhu.

It's a lot of work but rewarding work for the Senior Vice President of Bank of America.

"For me, it is the passion to see another kid, just like me, get an opportunity," says Prabhu.

Prabhu says the program will be coming to three more correctional facilities in South Carolina -- Richland, Lieber and McCormick.

He also has plans to expand it into North Carolina.

This year the group sent 13 kids to college and we're told, all of them have GPA's of 3.6 or higher.

For more information about the program visit, proverbs226.org.

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