Prisoner reentry program—Texas Offender Reentry Initiative (T.O.R.I.)—celebrated the graduation of 98 program participants on Friday, Dec. 16. The luncheon, hosted by T.D. Jakes, featured Grammy ® award-winning artist Fantasia Barrino Taylor and Kendall Taylor onstage for an in-depth conversation. Kendall Taylor, who was once a returning citizen and now a notable CEO, shared the stage with his wife to encourage and help inform graduates of their road ahead. T.O.R.I. is prepared to become a knowledge partner and help other national organizations replicate the Texas-based organization’s success.
The in-depth conversation between Fantasia, Taylor and Jakes touched on criminal justice reform, returning citizens and how programs like T.O.R.I. are helping them across Texas and soon across the United States. Over the last eight years T.O.R.I has helped the state of Texas, which incarcerates the most people in the U.S., close eight prisons.
Taylor spoke about how he still grapples with his traumatic past: “There are still moments—living the red-carpet life, sitting on the house on the hill, only black people in the community—where I could still be going to the mailbox feeling anxiety. But I had to let some things go. I finally just realized I’m not at war anymore.”
“We are not just defined by our successes, but also our struggles and our failures,” noted Jakes when speaking to Taylor.
T.O.R.I., which is celebrating its 18th anniversary this year, has become a nationally revered and trusted knowledge partner with a proven successful model of rehabilitative and recuperative justice that has directly impacted the lives of some 300,000 men, women and their families. The White House, the Department of Justice, Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safe and National Security, AT&T and Wal-Mart are some of the government and corporate entities that have either consulted or collaborated with T.O.R.I. to glean major learnings from the Dallas-based initiative. T.O.R.I. is uniquely poised to align with key partners looking for programming and curriculum that distinctively speaks to the ever-growing needs and inequality realities facing many families across the U.S. T.O.R.I has a 16% recidivism rate, much lower than the national average of over 65%.
T.O.R.I. provides returning citizens stability through assistance in employment, education, housing, healthcare, spiritual guidance and family unification. The mission of T.O.R.I. is to guide and empower ex-offenders to maximize their potential, increasing their opportunities for successful reintegration into society and to become productive citizens of their communities.
The U.S. has approximately two million people incarcerated. With only five percent of the world’s population, 16% of all incarcerated people in the world are in the U.S. The need is critical for T.O.R.I. to share its knowledge and expertise with similar organizations to successfully help acclimate returning citizens and reduce the national recidivism rate.