Horizon Participants' Reflections
Letters from Tomoka CI Horizon Participants 2009
The "Bridges To Life" program in the Horizon faith based unit at Tomoka has had a profound impact on my life. It has stirred emotions in me that I have never experienced before. Prior to this program, I was trapped in a "me- centered" life never giving any thought or consideration to the impact that my crimes may have had, not only to my victims but also to my family and friends as well. I had repaid some of my victims several years ago but I was to proud to apologize, thinking repayment was enough. This program gave me the confidence to admit that I was wrong, to feel their pain and to remove seven years of guilt that I have been harboring inside. I would like to thank you for your kindness and generosity in allowing us access to such a "life-changing" program. It has certainly changed my life and my way of thinking. God Bless You.
When I first came to prison I was very depressed because I did not see any program offered by the state that addressed rehabilitation. However, once I was transferred to the faith based dorm everything changed. I was introduced to one of the most life changing programs I've ever seen "Bridges To Life". I know that because of my crime there is an aftermath of pain, financial, devastation, emotional upheaval and lives ripped apart. I want to go back and face the music and make amends, to personally promote healing. "Bridges To Life" I believe, will have me do that. I have something concrete now to sort out my past not run from it. To those who are responsible for its conception and fruition I am eternally grateful. May God Bless you and keep you as you change lives one person at a time.
Letters from Tomoka CI Horizon Participants 2008
Growth and Change in Horizon
I’ve struggled with drug addiction and a criminal lifestyle for much of my life. I’ve tried NA but a return sentence to prison proved hat old habits are hard to break. It became clear that my way does not work.
Upon arriving at Tomoka C.I. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Horizon program . At first, I was a bit apprehensive and leery of its format. But I was immediately welcomed and embraced into the St. John’s family and knew I had made a decision that would change my life forever. As each day passed, I began to open up and see the errors of my way. I grew comfortable with Horizon’s teaching and the surroundings.
With the help and reassurance of an “Outside Brother” volunteer, I gave my life over to God, and thus began a truly new and remarkable chapter in my life. In the short time that I have been in the program I’ve grown spiritually and mentally. I am no longer afraid of the uncertainty that my future holds because with god as my guide, I am led in the right direction.
Making Peace with My Past
Since being in prison, I have been involved in church services of several different denominations, bible studies and more. When I came to Tomoka C.I. and signed up for the faith-based program, they did not take me until August 2007.
I entered the Horizon program thinking that I wanted to learn more about who God was. However, I began to understand that God wanted me to see who I was, and what I was going through for Him. The founders, coordinators and volunteer facilitators lead programs and some are highly structured. The course, “Making Peace with Your Past” was difficult at first, but it turned out that it opened my eyes on issues that I tried to bury in my past. I also found that the “Quest” program helped me understand my anger and control it. Then there was “Experiencing God” a course that gave me more direction towards his will and walking closer to him. On a different subject, I really benefited from the computer course and other educational materials.
In conclusion, I have learned more now than I ever learned in my life. I have become a better person, father and husband. I now wish to give thanks to God and all that has made the Horizon programs possible, and aim to grow closer to God and his children.
- Participant, Horizon at Tomoka C.I. 2008
Letters from Marion Correctional Horizon Participants 2007
Before I came I couldn’t love and I couldn’t forgive. When I came to MCI, and got in Horizon, I learned about myself and about God. I learned about Islam and about Judaism. I learned how to be responsible. I learned how to forgive in this program. I learned how to be a son, father and husband. I learned to be a man. No matter where you are or who you are, we can come to love each other if we have an open heart and open mind.
- Horizon grad, Marion Correctional in Ohio, 2007
All of the men who come through this program have their own struggles. Whether it’s hostility, immorality, addiction or accountability, we all have our own demons. Some come to the surface, others are hidden more deeply. But for each, the opportunity is present to address these demons head-on in an attempt to overcome them, and become a better person, for our families, our communities, and for ourselves. I would recommend the Horizon Program to anyone serving time that does not ever want to pass this way again.
- Participant at Marion Correctional in Ohio, 2007
I walked a solitary path. I was what they call a “stand up con.” I lived by the code:. Don’t bother anyone. Whatever you see, you forget. I took a shank to my side once, I just put duct tape over it with some antibiotic cream. I never said anything; a “stand-up con.” After many years it’s tough to adjust to a new way of life, but Horizon taught me how to embrace a community mindset.
- Horizon participant serving a life sentence at Marion Correctional in Ohio, 2007
Letter from Tomoka C.I. Horizon Participant, October 2007
“The things I learned in Horizon are invaluable – leadership, consensus building, and my own personal frailties that cannot be taught (or learned) in a classroom setting. The level of maturity, both spiritual and personal, I received in that short period of time is astounding... The Horizon experience will be responsible for any good I am able to accomplish in my life. The man I am now, and what I will become, can be greatly attributed to my experience there.”
Horizon at the Allred Unit in Texas, Graduation, December 2006:
My heart was broken many times as a child, but even though it healed as I grew up in foster care, it never healed right. Like a skillful bone surgeon, Horizon broke my heart one more time, enabling the loving presence of volunteers to knit it back together and heal it completely.
Horizon has put my family back together again. I had once been a good uncle… but my two nieces stopped writing and having any contact with me over 5 years before he went to prison, and that was over 9 years ago. I had given his life to cocaine and they saw my irresponsible behavior. In the Horizon program I wrote them, and they listened to what I had to say… saw a new me, being responsible. They are trying to help me, and one of my brothers has also written.
Letter from Tomoka Horizon participant:
It's been 12 years since I've been 'free', and never in my entire DOC experience have I been in a context that encourages growth like this. I've been swimming against the current all this time to better myself, and suddenly, it's as though the current has changed directions... The Godparent program is beyond words as well.
Comments at Graduation Tomoka C.I., Florida:
It was the hardest course I've ever had in my life - and I'm a college grad.
This program is FACE-BASED; you have to face up to reality.
Before I came into this program, I was meaner than a junk-yard dog.
Horizon Inter-faith, Ohio:
When I came into prison, I had no family relationships there for a long time. When I came into the Horizon program, God brought my family together. This close relationship has had an impact on me. It affected me in a way that I know God is real, bringing us all together.
Horizon Inter-faith, Davis Correctional, Holdenville, OK:
Four years ago, my oldest daughter had stopped writing. She now writes regularly. My youngest daughter had not ever written, but since I have been in Horizon, she now writes as well.
From Horizon at Davis C.F. in Holdenville, Oklahoma:
Reflections on Horizon's Family Day and Graduation, June 2007, when almost 250 family members, volunteers, prison officials and members of the Interfaith Council and the Oklahoma Board of Corrections came to honor the 52 program graduates:
The intensity of work in the Horizon year is capped with this special day – special because it feels like a day free from prison… you can see that freedom on their faces. For some it is a day when healing takes place between some of the inmates and their loved ones. When there is healing in a family, there is change in that family, and that is what Horizon is all about, people changing their lives. - Anthony
Family Day is a day for mending fences with loved ones. When we come to prison our families suffer for the mistakes we made. Children lose fathers. Parents lose sons, and wives lose husbands. Family Day is a day for discovering the joys of bonding in an atmosphere more like a wonderful family outing at a park or a family re-union. In truth, that is what it is, a family re-union. In Horizon, you go through a lot of changes mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. So a new person IS being united with a lost family.
My children were babies when I committed my crime, and I’ve never had a chance to sit in the grass and watch my daughter play with a doll or play catch with my nephew. For a lot of men Family Day is a time to see how much they are missing out on when they are always in and out of trouble. I realized how fun and enjoyable being with my family can be without being high or drunk. – Shane
From the Horizon Interfaith Community at The Allred Unit near Wichita Falls, Texas:
Since my acceptance into the Horizon Program, I have learned many life skills, but more importantly, I have learned that “family” does not have to be biological. I have been shown first hand that I have brothers in this prison, and that ethnic walls can be torn down. I have been shown support and love from my brothers in Christ which seems to go deeper than what I receive from my biological family. I pray earnestly for a chance to share with others the blessings and lessons the Holy Spirit and Our Lord have shown me throughout my time in the Horizon program.
My son has started writing me for the first time in years. I have a better outlook on life than I did before this program. All of my old friends have started writing I think because they see a new person in me. I thank God for this program.
After 9½ years of incarceration , I’ve been praying diligently for restoration with healing for the victim of my crime. On May 10, I received the first letter from my victim, expressing anger, hurt and betrayal. She promised herself she would never forgive me, or even speak to me again. But, even though her letter expressed such anger, I was overwhelmed with a sense that my prayers are being answered somehow. I do understand that healing will be a long process like forgiveness, but it will come. God opened the door for healing and forgiveness for us all and it will come in His due season.