by Emma Ann Patton, Editor-in-Chief

Courtesy Photo

Thousands of Oklahomans live behind bars, but OBU students visited a non-profit that aims to curve the incarceration rate.

Dr. Glenn Sanders, professor of history, took his Civil Discourse class on a field trip to The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM) in Oklahoma City.

Among the students who journeyed to the metro was Holly Hutcheson, a senior family and community service major. She said last Thursday’s visit is one she’ll never forget.

“The most memorable part was talking to one of the women in the program,” Hutcheson said. “As she was telling me about her daily life she realized she has been drug free for one year on that day.”

For Hutcheson, witnessing the change in her newfound friend was overwhelming.

“She started to cry and so did I,” Hutcheson said. “I was so proud and excited for her.”

It’s stories like these that the advocates at TEEM work toward. Though poverty and incarceration may be a hot topic in Oklahoma, TEEM confronts the issue head on—giving students a real-life example of civil discourse, Hutcheson said.

“TEEM is an organization that seeks to help prisoners get back on their feet,” Hutcheson said. “They have a reentry program… and supply them with resources such as counseling to keep them out of trouble, which is cool because they genuinely want these people to succeed.”

TEEM also provides mentorships and helps prisoners find jobs to start fresh. Hutcheson interacted with people preparing for an exam that could make all the difference.

“They were studying for their GED and all of them seemed so hopeful, like they were getting another chance and were excited,” Hutcheson said.

According to the National Institute of Corrections report, there were 27,650 prisoners in Oklahoma as of 2014, and the budget for the Oklahoma prison system was $530 million. Yet, many of those inmates are working to redeem themselves, TEEM’s website stated.

“We serve men and women who have a desire to change their lives, with a primary client population of non-violent, low-risk men,” TEEM’s website stated. “By giving parents the tools to become self-sufficient, we work to break generational cycles of incarceration and poverty. All TEEM’s services are free of charge to our clients.”

Because TEEM’s services are free, volunteers are readily welcomed. After leaving the headquarters, Hutcheson said that serving at TEEM is definitely a possibility for her.

“I hope that I can use this knowledge later in life,” Hutcheson said. “If anything, I will use [this knowledge] to know about a great way to help with the community.”

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