OKC Group Helping Former Inmates Return To A Normal Life

Wednesday, March 23rd 2016, 4:49 pm
By: Grant Hermes

For many, prison can be a revolving door because inmates just don't have the skills to return to normal life, but an Oklahoma City group is hoping to change all that, one member at a time.

It got to where my life was out of control and it was totally unmanageable. This incarceration has actually been a blessing for me. It's given me a chance to turn my life around,” Christina Milner said.

Standing in front of a steel table, an aproned Milner worked her way through a box of two and a half dozen eggs, cracking them into a silver bowl. She and her table partner at The Education and Employment Ministry were given the jobs of making the day’s cornbread.

“I've always been interested in culinary arts, I want to go into a restaurant management it's my short term goal,” she said.

After being convicted of a drug crime, she opted to join TEEM downtown Oklahoma City, instead of a GPS ankle bracelet.

The organization takes in mostly non-violent, low level offenders, like Milner, and offers training a variety of jobs. It also gives convicts help with housing fees and communication skills to help make their transition from incarceration to life on the outside easier.

But TEEM is fighting an uphill battle. State prisons are 23 percent over capacity and experts estimate 95 percent of convicts will see the inside a jail cell at some point after getting out.

“There is no such thing as a spare Oklahoman,” TEEM Executive Director Kris Steele said.

Steele said when he was the Oklahoma Speaker of the House, he had the opportunity to visit every state prison and said he met inmates who were frustrated with a lack of options after serving their sentences. He said people are looking for a change they just need a helping hand.

“It makes sense to me to try to get to a point to utilize all the talent in our state to benefit the greater good,” he said.

And for those like Milner, benefiting the greater good, means benefiting themselves too.

“It's a great feeling to know that I'm going to have a firm foundation to start building my life on,” she said.