Crime, Legal Related

Bridges to Life

  • Houston, TX
  • www.bridgestolife.org

Mission Statement

Bridges To Life (BTL) brings healing to victims of crime, reduces recidivism among offender graduates of the program, and helps make our community a safer place. The mission of Bridges To Life (BTL) is to connect communities to prisons in an effort to reduce the recidivism rate (particularly that resulting from violent crimes), reduce the number of crime victims, and enhance public safety. The spiritual mission of Bridges To Life is to minister to victims and offenders in an effort to show them the transforming power of God's love and forgiveness.

Main Programs

  1. Bridges To Life Adult Program
  2. Bridges To Life Juvenile Program
Service Areas

Self-reported

Texas

The Bridges To Life program has been offered in 112 facilities. The BTL curriculum has also been used in 11 states and four foreign countries.

ruling year

1999

Founder & CEO

Self-reported

Mr. John Sage

Keywords

Self-reported

Prison Ministry Accountability, Confession, Repentence, Forgiveness, Reconciliation Victim Healing Inmate Rehabilitation Restorative Justice

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EIN

76-0588279

 Number

2651645189

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Rehabilitation Services for Offenders (I40)

Human Services - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (P99)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Bridges To Life Adult Program

Restorative Justice prison/victim program

Category

Crime & Legal

Population(s) Served

Crime/Abuse Victims

Offenders/Ex-offenders

Adults

Budget

$988,500.00

Program 2

Bridges To Life Juvenile Program

In February of 2009, the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department requested implementation of BTL in one of their facilities. Kirk Blackard, BTL board member and author of Restoring Peace and the Bridges To Life Study Guide, began work on a study guide geared toward juveniles aged 13-17. In the fall of 2009, the first BTL Juvenile Program piloted with 20 youth and four volunteers at the Harris County Youth Leadership Academy (HCLA) in Katy, Texas. This pilot proved invaluable to the continued revision of the BTL curriculum to fit the need of the juvenile offender. Since that first project, BTL has completed 18 projects in four youth facilities, and graduated over 350 youth from our 12-week program. Through feedback from volunteers, juvenile probation staff, and professionals in the field of youth psychology, we have continued to revise and edit the Study Guide and the delivery of the program, which works well in a residential youth setting.

Category

Crime & Legal

Population(s) Served

Male Youth/Adolescents (14 - 19 years)

Offenders/Ex-offenders

Substance Abusers (Drug/Alcohol Abusers)

Budget

$10,000.00

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    The Bridges To Life program has two main goals: (1) To reduce recidivism (re-offending) rates of program graduates, thereby enhancing public safety and saving taxpayer dollars; and (2) To facilitate the healing process for victims and offenders.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    Bridges To Life (BTL) is a Restorative Justice process with a unique approach: it rehabilitates criminals, reduces the number of inmates who return to prison, and promotes healing for victims of crime.

    Victims “tell their story," which encourage the offenders to accept responsibility and not commit further crimes. By telling their stories in prison, victims—who many times feel alienated, afraid, and re-victimized by the criminal justice system—begin a healing process that allows for forgiveness and empowerment.

    Offenders, many of whom have never even considered how their actions have affected their victims, their families and friends, and the larger society, hear firsthand from victims of crime and explore the concepts of accountability, responsibility, restitution, and reconciliation. This approach addresses the very core of why people offend: anger, a lack of empathy for others, and a resistance to taking responsibility for one's own actions. For perhaps the first time in their lives, offenders are required to be active participants with a voice that is heard and given value. They are treated with respect so they can learn to respect themselves and make the necessary changes to lead a respectable life.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    Bridges To Life is led by CEO and Founder, John Sage, and a Board of Directors that provides fiscal and practical direction. The BTL board is comprised of nine members with established interests in social services, philanthropy, law, accounting, and business. Every board member contributes financially to BTL; assists with fundraising efforts, and provides in-prison volunteer service. Mr. Sage leads a staff of eleven full-time Regional Coordinators, one of which is also the Program Director, one part-time Regional Coordinator, a Development Director, and an Administrative Coordinator. Regional Coordinators typically manage the BTL programs in four prison units located within two hours of their home. This involves many tasks, including, but not limited to recruiting and training volunteers and working with the prison staff to coordinate the BTL projects inside the prisons. Because BTL staff is located throughout the state of Texas along with one staff member in Indiana, monthly all staff conference calls are held and in-person meetings are arranged whenever possible.

    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. Organizational meetings are conducted at each prison when a new BTL program is launched, and consistent verbal and written communication is utilized to ensure that all BTL staff and volunteers are in compliance with TDCJ rules and security regulations. Bridges To Life works closely with the Harris County Adult Probation Department to implement projects in two women's and one men's alternative facilities in Houston (the WHO program, Santa Maria Hostel, and YMAC). We also work closely with the staff at the Bexar County Probation Department to implement projects at two alternative settings in San Antonio. Experienced Bridges To Life volunteers are working with reVision, a ministry to at-risk youth sponsored by St. Luke's United Methodist Church and St. Martin's Episcopal Church, as mentors to incarcerated youth. We are currently working in collaboration with The WorkFaith Connection and SER to provide services to our offender participants after release from prison, and recently began a pilot project with The Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center in Houston. In addition to TDCJ, Bridges To Life staff works with numerous community-based agencies, faith-based organizations, faith communities, and government entities.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    The Bridges To Life program has two main goals: (1) to reduce recidivism rates of program graduates, thereby enhancing public safety and saving taxpayer dollars; and (2) to facilitate the healing process for both victims and offenders.

    Both of these program goals are long-term and far reaching. The reduction in the rate of recidivism among BTL graduates means that not only are our communities safer because there is less crime, but also that our prisons are safer. In fact, we have been told by prison personnel that the Bridges To Life program and other volunteer programs have actually begun to transform the attitudes of offenders and staff in our prisons, resulting in less violence within the prison walls. Furthermore, a reduction in crime means a reduction in victims of crime in our communities.

    Both quantitative (data and statistics) and qualitative (reports from program participants) are used to evaluate the achievement of Bridges To Life's goals.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    The latest three-year recidivism study of BTL graduates is very encouraging. This group represents all BTL graduates incarcerated in ID (Institutional Division) prisons and released from prison in 2011. The large and diversified sample group includes 863 inmates who participated in BTL in 28 different prisons. The recidivism rate for this group is 14%, measured three years after release from prison. Only 3% of these offenders returned to prison for committing a violent crime. Nationwide, recidivism rates are reported to have remained “largely stable since the mid-1990s, varying between 38% and 40%" (Pew Center State of Recidivism Study, 2011).

    The most recent Texas report shows a recidivism rate of 21.4% (Texas Legislative Board Report, 2015). The Texas recidivism rate has reduced from 33% for inmates released in 1999 to 21.4% for inmates released in 20011. BTL is one of the programs that has contributed to an overall decrease in recidivism in Texas, and BTL graduates show a significantly lower recidivism rate than the average for the nation and for Texas (BTL is 35% below the Texas average).

    The economic impact of Bridges To Life is profound. The average cost to taxpayers to incarcerate an offender in a Texas prison is approximately $90,000 (Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 2011), and that's in addition to the significant costs incurred at the county level, such as arrest and jail, prior to incarceration. In 2015, we plan to graduate 4,600 inmates from our 14-week program. Our impact is measured in several ways: recidivism stats, pre- and post-program studies, inmate written evaluations, inmate verbal comments, and feedback from volunteer facilitators. Although these measures would support a higher number, we estimate a minimum of 5% reduction in recidivism rates is due to the Bridges To Life program. This represents 230 inmates in 2015 who will not return to prison as a result of our program. This equates to $20,700,000 savings in incarceration costs, not to mention significant other short-term and long-term costs to society. Bridges To Life will spend approximately $988,500 in 2015. That is a $21 savings for every $1 invested, a significant rate of return. The Bridges To Life program is saving taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

    In 2015, The BTL program provided services to over 4,600 offenders at a cost below $225 per offender! Since inception, more than 28,000 offenders have graduated from the BTL program. BTL has worked in over 70 prisons, and its curriculum has also been used in 11 other states and four foreign countries. Based on the reduction in recidivism rates, the increase in public safety, and multiple costs listed above, BTL is saving taxpayers millions of dollars every year.
Service Areas

Self-reported

Texas

The Bridges To Life program has been offered in 112 facilities. The BTL curriculum has also been used in 11 states and four foreign countries.

External Reviews

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

Bridges To Life
Fiscal year: Jan 01-Dec 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Bridges to Life

Leadership

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  • Board Chair and Board Members
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Founder & CEO

Mr. John Sage

STATEMENT FROM THE Founder & CEO

"After experiencing the gut-wrenching aftermath of my sister's murder, I have great empathy for victims of crime. At Bridges To Life, we define "victim" as anyone who has been affected by or had a family member or loved one affected by crime, particularly when the incident profoundly changed his or her life. Crime plunges innocent victims into a dark side of society that they do not ask for or deserve. Victims of crime are the very heart and soul of Bridges To Life. At our very human core, we have a desire for peace (“shalom”) in our lives. Life often interrupts or destroys that peace and we all search for our way back, a return to the peace we knew as a child or experienced in the good times of our lives. The journey toward peace often requires radical change. For incarcerated offenders, it requires a transformation of heart, mind, and habits. We have witnessed this transformation in many of the inmate participants during the fourteen-week process. The recidivism statistics of our graduates relative to general population inmates indicate a very significant impact."

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Mr. Kirk Blackard

Retired, Shell Oil Co.

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

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RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?