In his work with the Lifer Program at Everglades Correctional Institution, Chris Wolfe helps men who have had their prison sentences reduced from life in prison transition from the institutionalized life of incarceration back into society. All of these men were convicted of first or second degree murder and have spent 27 to 41 years in prison. Many of them spent time on Death Row prior to their sentence reductions. More than 400 men have been paroled through this program since 1997, and of all the men paroled, there have been only two non-violent criminal violations, and one violent violation (which didn’t occur until 2016).
So, what makes this corrections transition program so successful? Most importantly, the members of this program are all volunteers, who participate because they care. They provide a variety of workshops, presentations, and classes for the men, each of which is facilitated by many sources, including the convicts themselves. Te Voices of Time Gavel Club, of which Mr. Wolfe is a founding member, was added to this program ten years ago to improve these men’s lives by teaching them how to speak, listen, and think, so they can communicate more effectively and give back to society after they are released.
Mr. Wolfe is a long-time public speaker, frequently speaking at public schools about the dangers of using drugs. He talks to the students about many of the men in prison who, by their own admissions, used drugs and alcohol, often at early ages; hung around the wrong crowds; succumbed to peer pressure; and made bad choices – all of which were factors in their ending up in prison. Mr. Wolfe’s presentation “Birds of a Feather Flock Together…Do You Know Who Your Children are Associating With?” works to keep children out of prison and demonstrates real life examples of teenagers who made bad choices and received life sentences as a result.
Through his work, including a recent documentary project compiling interviews of the inmates in the Lifer Program, Mr. Wolfe hopes to teach children about personal responsibility. He particularly emphasizes that they are not only responsible for their actions, but also for the actions of the people they associate with – his belief is that we are all only one bad decision from incarceration, and many teenagers go to prison every year simply because of bad choices. Parents, teachers, school administrators, and students will never forget his presentations.
Chris Wolfe serves as a volunteer on the Board of Directors for the Corrections Transition, Inc. in Miami, FL, and he founded the Voices of Time Gavel Club in 2007.