By Dan Bewley, The News On 6
HOMINY, OK -- More than 8,000 inmates are released every year from Oklahoma state prisons.
Getting them ready for the return to society is one of many challenges the state faces.
News On 6 reporter Dan Bewley found a program in Osage county that combines faith, family, and character.
Roll call is something you might expect to see in prison.
But at the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy you're just as likely to see the inmates break out in song. It's part of a Department of Corrections program called the Faith and Character Community Program.
"It's the first time that I've ever seen anything in the Department of Corrections that's actually geared toward changing a person's life," said Chuck Davis, an inmate.
Dick Conner is a high-medium security prison and each inmate in the program is here voluntarily and the offenses run across the board.
"Armed robbery and possession of a firearm," Davis said.
"I'm in here on a sex crime," Cliff Hubert said.
"I'm in for first degree burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle," Lee McQueary said.
Thursday was family day, a midway point in the 12-month program. It gives the offenders two paths to choose, faith for the religious or character for the non-religious.
"It gives you tools to motivate your thinking," Davis said.
Prison officials say this group of inmates has fewer discipline problems than those who are not in the program. Family members believe it's working, saying, for the first time, they're seeing a real change.
I'm really happy for him, I mean he seems happy now and I'm really proud of him because since he's been here he's changed so much," Kurstin Hubert said.
The program started in 2007 and is currently being run at three state prisons at a cost of $20,000 a year. Department of Corrections officials say the inmates who graduate from the program are less likely to commit another crime.
The inmates say they appreciate the DOC for helping them change their lives.
"I've grown," McQueary said. "Every day I choose to face the facts of the things that I've done and learned to grow from them."
Once the men graduate they'll enroll into an aftercare program that takes them a little bit deeper into their rehabilitation. Some will even become peer facilitators for next year's program.