“What do you think of when you think about prison?”
“Most people think of silence. Solitude. Isolation. It’s not that, though. It’s loud. Loud all day, loud all night. It’s a concert of yelling at all times. That’s one of the worst things about prison. You never get peace.” Frank said quietly.
It would be safe to say Frank has never had the privilege of peace throughout his life. Frank was born in Odessa, Texas, to a mother addicted to drugs. He was born underweight and premature, resulting in serious medical issues that remain today.
Frank bounced between foster homes, never remaining with one for over six months. Often, they described his medical needs as “complicated” and his behavior as “troubling.” At 16, the Department of Family and Protective Services couldn’t locate a placement, so he slept in office buildings until he turned 18. At 18, without any social support or connections, his C.P.S. caseworker drove him to a homeless shelter. Like so many, Frank had “aged out.”
“I had no direction. I had no opportunities ahead. And that shelter – it was so loud. Day and night, just like in prison, it was constant noise.” Frank recalls.
Frank wanted out, but he didn’t know how to move forward. In addition, the shelter was struggling to help him get connected to the medications that keep his medical conditions under control. The pressure was building.
One day, Frank got into an altercation with an elderly resident about toothpaste, and the elderly man shoved Frank. In response, Frank punched him. Staff at the shelter called the police, where Frank was charged with Assault of an Elderly or Disabled Person.
Frank was released awaiting trial but had nowhere to go. He slept in homeless encampments, alleyways, and parks. He was huddled around a shared fire in one encampment when two other individuals began fighting. He ducked into a nearby tent as the
police pulled up. Due to the encampment on private property, the drugs found in the tents, and the altercations taking place around him, Frank’s charges were compounded, and he lost his pre-trial freedom.
Without income or ability to defend himself effectively, he immediately pled guilty to all charges.
“At the time, I thought that at least it would get me a roof. I mean, I had nothing. It ended up being like the homeless shelter, but worse” Frank said.
One evening, before “lights out,” Frank heard a booming voice. It was coming from the television in the central area. The voice said: “But I think my mistakes became the chemistry for my miracles. I think that my tests became my testimonies.”
The voice was that of Bishop T.D. Jakes preaching a sermon. Following the sermon, he saw an ad for the T.O.R.I. program. As the sermon ended, the correctional officers called lights out.
“I think I slept maybe an hour or two that night,” Frank recalls. “I couldn’t stop thinking about that sermon, about that program. For once in my life, I had direction.”
It would be months before he was released, but when that day finally arrived, Frank took a Greyhound bus to Dallas, where he joined the T.O.R.I. program. Within days, he was in the Man2Man class, a curriculum designed to provide peer spiritual support to men returning home from incarceration.
“When asked what I would tell someone considering supporting T.O.R.I. I would say this: no one stood up for me throughout my life. I never felt like anyone had my back …until I started the T.O.R.I. program. I have a job, a place to live, a newfound family, but most of all, I have a spiritual foundation.” Frank explains.
“T.O.R.I. donors made my future possible. They are the keys that turned my tests into testimonies.”