Companions on the Journey, prisoner re-entry, impacts the community

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Companions on the Journey
City & State:
South Bend, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

A community healing itself of the causes and consequences of crime with the help of exprisoners.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

[Companions’ sees an exprisoner’s capacity for succees as the sum of her/his human capital (internal resources) plus social capital (networks of support needed to achieve goals). Following is an exprisoner’s success story illustrating this formula.]

In November 2005 in a drug-induced paranoid state, John Bell shot a man in a crack house basement. For over a decade he had led a Jekyll/Hyde existance. In light of day he appeared as Common Citizen; under cover of night, however, he materialized darkly as Anti-Hero—addict, drug dealer, gang leader and pimp. It seemed for a hot minute that Mr. Hyde might win.

Like Jonah in the Old Testament, John reflected deeply on his life and bad choices during his stay in the “Belly of the Whale” (jail). Internally, he struggled with corrupt character and inadequate ideas, addiction, inordinate concern for image, ambivalence toward ill-got gain, and codependency. Externally, he faced society’s reentry roadblocks, the community’s fear and desire for retribution, daunting personal legal issues, possible retaliation from the criminal subculture, mounting debt, and severe family dysfunction. But, there and then, he decided to change and confront it all.

Also, like Jonah, John was “regurgitated” unexpectedly out to his own recognizance. He had planned to plead “self defense” at his trial, but a chance encounter with Companions’ director Rob Sambosky in February 2006 changed all that. John embraced Restorative Justice, admitted guilt, and sought reconciliation with his victim—all to his defense attorney’s horror! He volunteered at Companions, helping to build the program’s capacity in the local black community. At sentencing, the judge gave him a year of house arrest instead of an eight-year prison term. This “moment of grace” allowed him to support his family and expand his work of community transformation. Owing to his proactivity, probation released John two years early. Now, as transformed Hero, John is passionate about the Good Life and his role as “agent of change.” He continues to inspire other exprisoners and to help them along their Hero’s Journey.

John and other exprisoner staff and volunteers use Microsoft software extensively for email, word processing, databasing, online research and PowerPoint presentations to civic, educational, and faith groups. The software is installed on a bank of computers used by local exprisoners as a resource center for the job club we have recently instituted.

It allows us to share our positive stories and vision and to grow our mission as we expand out into the wider community and worldwide web. Without Microsoft’s donation and Techsoup’s assistance, our work and capacity-building potential would be limited and many children in our community would continue to suffer.

Attached is a PowerPoint presentation on our work John helped to develop and deliver to a theological seminary.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact
Project Image
Supporting Work Files