A program designed to assist ex-offenders with adjusting to life beyond prison walls.
What is the Transitional Services Program?
The Saints Prison Ministry Transitional Services Program was launched with the vision to provide ex-offenders with a support network upon release from prison. Transitional Services provides help in finding employment, housing, and other resources needed for community readjustment. Our program currently funded by grants from the Georgia Office of Faith Based Initiatives, as well as by gifts from individuals and supporting churches.
Who is eligible for Transitional Services?
Those inmates who are:
- Serious about living a transformed life
- Receptive to life-skills training and spiritual guidance
- In need of assistance to form a solid parole plan
- In the process of being released (preferably within six months of release) or recently released
As of 8/04, our Transitional Services program reached 100 clients and our recidivism rate is 5%. The national average is 70% for all prisoners after one year, 40% after 3 years and The Saints 5%.
An Interview with Mark Drayton, 44, ex-offender/member of Transitional Services Program
by Minister Keith Oberlin, Director of Transitional Services in Atlanta, Georgia
Where did you grow up? I grew up in North Camden and moved to East Camden in 1979. That is where I live today. I attended an after school church ministry as a child and was taught by Rev. Mary and attended State Street Methodist Church.
What was your family life like? We had a normal but strict upbringing. My father was a Camden Police Officer and became a County Sheriff Officer. As a matter of fact, he was one of the first minorities to join both forces. My Mother is my Hero, because she raised 10 children of her own and 4 nieces and nephews and grandchildren, and never complained. She never collected welfare and never loved any of us differently than the others. Me and my brother were sports fanatics and won many awards. My sisters were the leaders of our family while Mom and Dad worked.
When were you last arrested? I was arrested on March 25, 2001 in the East Camden section of the city for possession of drugs, with intent to distribute. I was heavily addicted to cocaine and sold drugs to support my habit.
What was happening in your life that caused you to start taking drugs? I was blaming other people for my problems, when the truth of the matter was that I was the problem. I had a very low self esteem and hid behind drugs to avoid facing reality. Drugs were like a comfort zone or a wall of protection for me so when the truth appeared, I ran behind it and pointed fingers at everyone and everything in selfish denial. I also lost focus on God and allowed Satan to control my thinking.
Now that you’re clean and sober, how is your family responding to you? Today, my family is proud of me because I have come to terms with myself and know that Jesus is my Light and the Leader of my life. Today, my family is proud of me because I am working very hard to change my life by obtaining an education for myself that will serve as a foundation for my dreams and goals. My Mother is proud because today her son no longer uses drugs! My children are proud because their father no longer uses drugs and is back in their lives. My brothers and sisters are proud because they always had faith in me and knew that deep down on the inside, their brother was smarter and stronger than what they saw drugs do to my life.
When did you become a Christian? I received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was a kid going to “North Camden Christian Ministries”. But I lost focus on God and had to go to prison four times before I was tired and found the Lord again. This time I will keep Him in focus and in my life forever!
How did you become a member of The Saints Transitional Services program? I met Min. Keith McCrea about 25 years ago on the playgrounds of Camden playing basketball. Keith was an excellent basketball player and we competed daily. In fact, we played on a State Championship team in North Camden for the C.C.C.O.I.O. While at Hope Hall Half-way House, serving prison time, we were brought together again by the Power of God as Keith came in to hold a Bible Study for the residents and bless us with God’s Word.
Do you attend church? I am currently a member of the Solid Rock Church and Worship Center in Lindenwold, NJ under the leadership of my Pastor and Spiritual Leader, Pastor Amir Khan. The family of Solid Rock has been a tremendous help to me with advice, guidance, prayers, love, concern and leadership. I love my church and our family members (The Soldiers of God).
What are you doing now to improve your life? I am currently enrolled in Camden County College, in the field of drug and alcohol counseling. In my first semester, I was blessed by God to have three (A’s), and one (B). My G.P.A. is 3.5 and I made the Dean’s List. I work at a window factory in Camden and have been employed there for nine months. I have founded a youth awareness program for kids in schools, church, housing projects, youth clubs, etc., named P.R.I.D.E. (Prisoner’s Released Involved In Developing Education). I hope to have it on a web page very soon. This program focuses on former and current prisoners going out to speak to youth concerning drugs, alcohol, crime, education, and basic life skills. I am also a member of the Juvenile Crime Committee in Camden, serving youth in trouble with the law. I also umpire baseball games for city youth in the Newton Creek section of Camden.
How has Transitional Services made a difference?I love The Saints Transitional Services program because it introduced me to various services like drug rehab, spiritual guidance, education, etc. that helped me to focus on making the right choices and decisions. It also showed me the importance of having God in my life!
How has God shaped your life? God has given me a new lease on life. He has blessed me in school, in work, in my finances and with bringing my family back into my life. The most important thing He has done is Love Me Unconditionally! I love Jesus!!!