“There is a real need for this outreach in our community,” said Andrea Shelton, president of HeartBound.
About 95 percent of Georgia’s inmates will be released back into society, but 75 percent will wind up back in the prison system. “We have seen great success with this program, and as it continues on within the prison systems, we hope to break the cycle once they are released.”
The organization offers many programs such as The Integrity Project, a weekly values-developmental course; Malachi Dads, a weekly parenting training program for incarcerated fathers; and Project ART, which aims to reach out and inspire juvenile offenders through art.
Tony Van Dyke started Project ART with Shelton, and has been working with juvenile offenders since 2011. “We use art as a bridge to talk with these boys,” said Van Dyke, who is a cartoonist and ordained preacher. Using super heroes and allowing them to build universes to tell stories, Van Dyke and teaching partner Vincent Allen help the kids break down barriers to confront and deal with their personal issues.
Through their work in the past two years, Project ART plans on releasing comic books that will circulate through the juvenile detention centers and prisons to help increase the outreach of the program.
The impact that HeartBound and its programs makes throughout the prisons is not possible without its many volunteers. Volunteers can helpthe nonprofit by partnering with it to provide spiritual guidance, substance abuse counseling, cognitive classes, literacy services, life skills training, parenting classes and other rehabilitative programs for adult and juvenile offenders.
“We need the community’s help on making our mission possible,” said Shelton. “Whatever someone is good at, we need their help. It truly becomes a community effort to help change and enrich these lives so the inmates can become better people.”
In addition to the formal programs offered by HeartBound, Georgia’s 33 state prisons and 28 juvenile correctional facilities are also supported through outreach programs featuring professional athletes, musicians, speakers and dramatists; donations of literature, videos, indigent hygiene items, and holiday care bags; re-entry support for inmates leaving prison, and computer equipment and instruction.
HeartBound has conducted over 750 outreach programs in Georgia prisons and facilitated six prison adoptions.