SAYRE, Okla –It’s almost inconceivable anyone could find peace and joy here. But Clemente Gibb’s heart is brimming with unwavering purpose.
He is not the same gang member sentenced to life in prison. Gibb’s road to North Fork Correctional Center began with petty crime and probation – shoplifting in 1990. Then arson, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and first degree rape. Gibbs said, “Couldn’t stay out of trouble. I was successful for a while. But I turned my back on God. I got into more trouble and came back.”
Gibbs and dozens of other inmates are learning how to reframe their stories in a positive light.
They are recent graduates of faith and character classes. Program Director Brian Johnson said, “They become better men because of the material we teach them. They have to learn a lot of material. They have a whole year all this material we throw at them. You can see it, week to week. Month to month – they progress.”
Progress on topics like marriage and parenting, money management, interview and job skills, and personal faith. According to Gibbs, “I’m a changed man from what I used to be because I didn’t used to care. I was in a gang for over 30 years. I didn’t care. I live my life the way I wanted to but I changed my life and faith and character program had a lot to do with me changing my life. It gave me a lot of avenues. Things you see me do up there I’ve never done before.”
Ideally – the curriculum will help these men make a successful transition from prison to community. Iron sharpens iron. Johnson said, “Our goal is to get these inmates in our program and teach them all the knowledge that we have and then put them onto other pods to help spread the word. You guys need to be in the faith and character program and this is what it’s done for me. It’s helped build my character as a person, my faith, and to help us recruit.”
In some cases – it’s a court ordered program. But inmate participation is largely voluntary. And, there is incentive to graduate. “We had a gentleman here had 13 years left on his sentence he came up to me and said I just got back from my commutation if I finish my faith and character I can walk out that day.” Said Johnson, “That’s a pretty good incentive. We have used that to recruit other inmates. It doesn’t happen to everybody but you never know if it can happen to you. And they walk out a better man.”
Faith and character-based programs like this have shown to positively affect inmate behavior and reduce recidivism.
For inmates like Clemente Gibbs -- who long to recharge, refresh, and rejuvenate a weary soul, North Fork is a good place to begin that road to redemption.