By MICAH HENRY
A bunch The Times coated in July of this 12 months remains to be hoping to enhance the lives of convicted felons, scale back recidivism (the probability they are going to offend once more), and create higher outcomes for all Americans, despite setbacks the group not too long ago endured.
New Hope Initiative (NHI), included a 12 months in the past, is “a collective of felons and households of felons who consider within the want for main felony justice reform inside our nation and our communities,” defined Founder and President Chris Johnson, age 31, an inmate at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville. (Johnson is serving a 20 12 months sentence for second diploma homicide in Buncombe County; he killed as a result of he was making an attempt to forestall the sexual assault of a pal, he stated. He additionally has a earlier felony historical past.)
Helping Johnson is New Hope Initiative Executive Vice-President, Tammy Cooper, whose brother is incarcerated at Alexander Correctional Institution.
New Hope is a Christ-centered group, Johnson defined, including that he offers all of the credit score to God for serving to him to proceed to advocate for optimistic change.
As reported in July, New Hope is planning to arrange several paths to assist inmates, present and former, to cut back recidivism.
“The inspiration for New Hope Initiative is the results of a few years of self-reflection and private expertise enduring the numerous hardships that include being a prisoner in America’s Prison System,” Johnson stated.
“Just as a result of they’re prisoners doesn’t imply they need to be handled like animals,” stated Cooper.
Johnson stated New Hope’s mission is from Isaiah 61:1, which states, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; as a result of the Lord hath anointed me to evangelise good tidings unto the meek; he hath despatched me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the jail to them which are certain…” Although it’s Christian based mostly, New Hope will provide assist to anybody, no matter faith or different standing.
Johnson stated he and New Hope board members have methodically created plans to deal with every one of many points he has both skilled or has been informed about by inmates.
“I community with prisoners and speak with their households, too,” he defined.
Since he’s “inside,” Johnson wanted assist in getting the Initiative included and in recruiting volunteers, which has been a sluggish course of.
Early on, New Hope almost had a everlasting setback that will have ruined Johnson’s testimony and virtually resulted in a homicide.
In 2016, Johnson had been engaged on the concepts for New Hope and outlining objectives for about three years. In a wheelchair, Johnson feared he could be assaulted within the unit he was housed in. He requested to be moved however his request was denied. Not lengthy after, a gang member sexually assaulted Johnson. Of course, this enraged Johnson, the extra he thought of it. Soon, Johnson was on his strategy to kill the gang member who had assaulted him, however he stopped. He realized this could break his testimony — and all of the work on New Hope Initiative.
“I didn’t damage him as a result of I consider in New Hope a lot,” Johnson stated.
There has been progress, punctuated by some setbacks.
“Last 12 months, we had some folks actually consider in our mission. We obtained knowledgeable web site created, a emblem, and we’re making an attempt to get folks to see how important and essential this initiative is,” Johnson said.
As an inmate, Johnson himself can not deal with funds for New Hope. Sadly, an individual whom Johnson had trusted with dealing with the funds proved untrue. The individual stole cash that New Hope Initiative had meant for use for establishing its 501(c)3 non-profit standing paperwork.
What’s worse, Johnson himself was assaulted in jail this summer time by somebody whom he had trusted. The inmate, who was nearing launch, critically attacked Johnson and shattered his nostril, requiring reconstructive surgical procedure. Johnson is recovering from surgical procedure.
“I didn’t battle again,” Johnson stated. “I believed if I did, nobody would take me critically about our mission. I needed to be the instance.”
Johnson has skilled oppression from different inmates and from jail workers, he stated. But he attracts braveness from the Apostle Paul’s tenacity for telling others about Christ, as written in Phillipians 3:14, “I press towards the mark for the prize of the excessive calling of God in Jesus Christ.”
“No matter the place the oppression comes from, I simply wish to preserve going, so that everybody has the chance they want,” Johnson stated. “I’m not permitting something to tug me down and cease me from what God has referred to as me to do.”
New Hope’s plans are nonetheless in place. Johnson stated he would really like church buildings to grow to be a part of this system. As the primary steps, he hopes New Hope’s non-profit standing will be obtained (an estimated price of $600), its e-mail server invoice will be paid (which not too long ago lapsed), and that New Hope’s Prisoner Potential program can start. This entails a “artistic and promotional platform for all issues prisoner expertise, the place inside we’re helping prisoners in utilizing their expertise to create, and out of doors we’re displaying and selling their work to the general public to create wholesome connections and stable alternatives utilizing their reward for good.”
A potential funding methodology for New Hope’s applications is the creation and sale of X-Con Clothing, a line of attire to assist break down the stigma of “convict” or “felon” titles and that includes art work and designs from felons and prisoners.
Johnson and Cooper stay optimistic about the way forward for New Hope and its potential to positively have an effect on many lives as quickly as funding and construction are in place. They hope to stipulate New Hope’s
progress in future articles in The Times.
To study extra about New Hope Initiative or to help the group with a donation, name Vice President Tammy Cooper, 828-582-0231, or go to New Hope’s web site,