One by one, dressed in caps and gowns, Sunday was an extra special day for a group of 135 graduates.
But those walking across the stage Sunday were not your typical graduates -- they are graduates of Bishop T.D. Jakes' Texas Offender ReEntry Initiative (TORI).
"TORI is an intensive 12-month case management program that offers six core services: employment, housing, education, family reunification, health care and spiritual guidance. The program helps former inmates transition to life outside the penal system, dramatically increasing chances for success and reducing the likelihood of recidivism," said The Potter's House, Jakes' Dallas church, in a statement. "TORI has served more than 10,000 formerly incarcerated individuals returning to Texas. The U.S. recidivism rate is 67 percent of former prisoners re-arrested and 52 percent re-incarcerated within three years of release. The T.O.R.I. program's recidivism rate is at a low nine percent."
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Ladaryl Fisher is one of those former offenders, now a graduate of Jakes' program.
"Within a year and a half, I've got this job that I'm working. I'm in the process of starting by own business. I've gotten engaged and soon to be married," Fisher said.
During the commencement, Jakes addressed the most recent graduates as well as the 10,000 former offenders who have taken part in the program over the last decade.
"God can pull you out and pull you through things you thought you couldn't get through," Jakes said.
"The program was very inspirational to me; very motivating for me. They motivated me to reach my full potential," said alum Shanita Mayberry, who graduated from the program in 2010.