More than 100 former convicts graduate from special program at The Potter's House in Dallas.
There were 109 North Texans convicted of crimes who are back out in society as graduates of a year-long life skills program. Bishop T.D. Jakes and dozens of volunteers helped transform these individuals through The Texas Offenders Re-entry Initiative.
Just about everyone in green caps and gowns at The Potter’s House Sunday morning once wore an orange jumpsuit. They swear those days are over and their time in the Texas Offenders Re-entry Initiative is a big reason why.
"Without the TORI program I wouldn't be here talking to you guys right now," said graduate Nathan Green who served six years for assaulting his girlfriend, the mother of one of his sons.
"After seeing the journey over a year and seeing everyone come together, everyone's accomplishments, knowing we have a new beginning and start a different foundation and different path," said graduate Anika Frazier who served probation for assault.
Actor-director Charles Dutton gave a relatable speech.
"The first time I graduated for anything in my life was in the penitentiary," said Dutton.
He spent most of his teen years in reform school and served time for stabbing a man to death. He says he found his calling producing a play for the prison talent show.
"Now that you've gone through it,” Dutton told the graduates. “You've got to realize the struggle is from the cradle to the grave, so you might as well fall in love with the struggle because it's going to be there."
Dutton had a captive audience Sunday. Nathan Green says he’s a changed man.
"I was an assaulter," Green said. "I assaulted someone I very loved tremendously and to her I apologize. I love you. I will always love you. For my sons, I love you both."
Green and his fellow graduates took classes on parenting, anger management and got coaching on getting a job. They have jobs now and new expectations from society, their families and themselves.