The Bridges To Life program utilizes an intensive, 14-week process during which victim volunteers and offenders are brought together along with a facilitator. To meet the program’s objective of providing a safe environment for offender and victim, a small group format is utilized that emphasizes confidentiality and compassion. There is consistency in format from week to week, including several key elements:
Throughout the project, participants complete homework that includes reading from the Restoring Peace book, answering questions in the workbook, keeping a journal, writing letters to family members and victims, and telling their own life story, including full disclosure of their crime of record. The groups are facilitated with the aid of a training manual and study guide, which offer opportunity for learning, growth, and reflection. The curriculum materials consist of four key items:
At the end of each 14-week program, a graduation ceremony is held. During this ceremony, an “open microphone” format is utilized that gives participants the opportunity to present testimonials and statements about their experience in the program and its impact on their lives. Following the testimonials is a reception/fellowship, during which offenders, volunteers, and guests can socialize. Said one graduate: “I feel like a different person. I now understand how my crime affected others, how to be responsible and accountable. I learned how to trust people and open up.”
Bridges To Life works in close collaboration with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Chaplaincy Department and the wardens and chaplains of each of the prison units in which it conducts programs. BTL also works closely with the leadership of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department and the personnel at the juvenile centers in which it conducts programs. Bridges To Life works closely with the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department to implement projects in a halfway house and at the Women Helping Ourselves facility in Atascocita. In addition to TDCJ, Bridges To Life staff work with numerous community based agencies, faith based organizations, faith communities, and government entities.
BTL could not provide services without the generous donation of volunteer time. Community support includes thousands of hours donated by volunteer facilitators and victim volunteers and the use of facilities to conduct the projects in correctional units throughout Texas. Our volunteers contributed over 44,600 hours in 2014, which had an “in-kind” value of $1,045,414. The volunteers are absolutely essential to fulfilling the mission and goals of the program.