"Adopt a Prisoner" Program Debuts at Sussex County Church - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

"Adopt a Prisoner" Program Debuts at Sussex County Church

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BRIDGEVILLE, Del.- It is a program that came to life in Kent County, founded by a successful businessman-turned drug addict, who turned his life around. The Adopt a Prisoner program is now making its way into Sussex County. The goal is to help former inmates successfully transition back into society.

Some are skeptical, saying they don't think it is possible to change criminals. 

But to those skeptics, Victory Baptist Church in Bridgeville says denying that helping hand will only make the problem worse. As it is now, more than 70-percent of inmates in Delaware end up returning to jail.

Bill D'Andrea is slowly getting back on his feet, about three-and-a-half months after being released following jail time for DUI.

"When I got out, I really didn't have a place to stay or anything," he explained.

That is where the Adopt a Prisoner program came in, helping D'Andrea get housing at Dover Interfaith. The program is also providing him with a phone and other essentials, including guidance and support.

"They accepted me as I was, you know," said D'Andrea. "No judgment, things like that. And actually just gave me another chance at life."

A chance that some say those with a criminal past don't deserve.

"For a first time offender, perhaps," said Rachel Keefe of Bridgeville. "But after that, no."

It is that kind of attitude that Pastor Russ Kessler said he wants to help change. His own son is incarcerated in North Carolina -- one of many reasons he felt compelled to get involved in the program and embrace D'Andrea as the church's first adoptee.

"What do you do when someone has done something bad, made a mistake? You still love them, you don't throw them aside," Kessler said. "You try to help them do better. And that's our ministry, that's our drive is to help up."

"If everybody keeps doubting them, cutting them down, telling them they're never going to make it, you ain't got a chance, it gets in your head," added D'Andrea. "That's what you start thinking. And then you're right back in jail again." 

That is a cycle the Adopt a Prisoner program hopes to break.

D'Andrea said one of the biggest challenges after being released is finding employment. He has managed to start his own construction business, and says he tries to give jobs to other former inmates like him.

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