Southeast Hope Award: Jump Start

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, August 2nd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It,  the final regional winner in the 2018 Hope Awards for Effective Compassion.

REICHARD: The end of the story series this year may come as sad news for some of you. Listener Kris Hart wrote in to say she and her husband are “eagerly listening to each story about the Hope Awards finalists.” After the Burmese refugees story, her husband said, “Every one of these things just tugs at your heartstrings.”

Well, we agree! Each of these five ministries has a track record of providing help and hope that is challenging, personal, and spiritual.

BASHAM: Yeah, and all without government dollars. Each one is a deserving recipient of the 10-thousand dollar grand prize, but only one can win. And if you’re hearing my voice right now, you get a say. Voting is open now at

Today Kristen Flavin brings us the story of the Southeast Hope Award winner: a prison outreach program in South Carolina.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: How do you keep former convicts from going back to prison? How do you help them become productive members of society after they’ve served their sentences?

For Tim Terry, those questions were personal. As a former inmate, he experienced the re-entry problems ex-prisoners face.

TERRY: I hadn’t seen my family in 10 years. Where am I going to work? Where am I going to stay? Who am I going to be around? All the “what if” questions that you don’t know because society’s done passed you by.

Terry co-founded Jump Start to help answer those questions. It’s an intensive 40-week program of classes and Bible studies for inmates who are still incarcerated. Participants who graduate are eligible for the re-entry program. That includes transitional housing, job placement, and Christian mentoring.

Key to success is job placement—and that’s where local businessman Chris Phillips comes in. He’s the founder of Sun Surveillance, a company that makes electrical components for solar-powered, wireless surveillance cameras.

And his company hires Jump Start graduates from the 16 South Carolina prisons where the program operates..

PHILLIPS: I felt like it was something that God had put on my heart to use this business to help men coming out of prison specifically.

He agreed to give a Jump Start participant a try. He was impressed by the man’s work ethic.

PHILLIPS: There’s talented men that have made a mistake that can bring a lot of value to your organization, and they’ve brought lots of value to our organization.

Since then, the majority of Phillips’ employees are workers from Jump Start—and business is booming.

The former inmates may lack particular skills, but that doesn’t matter to Phillips. He says he can teach most people how to work on one small component, which makes up a piece of a larger, more complex system.

PHILLIPS: Manufacturing wireless solar powered camera systems does not get me out of the bed. But coming to help these men does get me out of the bed and gives me something to look forward to every day.

Some men move on to other jobs, and Phillips is glad he was able to give them work experience. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of work to a former inmate.

The U-S Department of Justice reports that 75 out of 100 ex-cons are rearrested within five years of release. But for Jump Start graduates, the number is only four out of 100.

And here’s the astounding number: Of the 2,100 men and women who have graduated from the 40-week prison program over the last ten years, only 70 have returned to prison.

Of course, former inmates have other needs besides work—and Jump Start works with churches and other agencies to help meet those needs.

Jump Start staffers meet with representatives from local agencies—like parole and probation or mental health—to review cases they have in common.

The goal is to make sure men like Roman Cannady have the support they need so they don’t end up back inside.

CANNADY: The first time I ever got in trouble with the law I was 16 years old…

In prison and facing a 15-year sentence, Cannady in prison noticed a small group of men who seemed happy. They were part of Jump Start. The program offered Biblical teaching that held out the possibility of knowing God and living a meaningful life. That made sense to Cannady.

CANNADY: I don’t want to leave prison the same way I came in. And I remember February 19, 2012, ah man. God just supernaturally showed me how much he had really loved me and that love—it just saturated my heart so much. I was like man, what is this? That makes me live differently –   that makes me want to do better.

Cannady now works with young people at his church, trying to keep them from going down the wrong road.

CANNADY: I want to be a role model. I want to show them that there is a better way and that way is Jesus Christ. Without Jump Start, I would probably be back in jail.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(Photo, Denise McGill/Genesis) Roman Cannady

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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