SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif - Acts of violence are decreasing at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo County. Inmates are learning the concept of putting "God" before their "gang."
"I have a life sentence, but life is not over," said Carrington Russelle, a prisoner.
"Though I'm incarcerated physically, mentally and spiritually I'm free," said David Ponce, a prisoner.
If you take a look around at the church at CMC on a Saturday you'll see a group of prisoners practicing Christianity, some of whom will never leave.
The prisoners are students in a program called The Urban Ministry Institute.
"I didn't know whether or not my victim would survive," said Ponce.
Ponce is serving 12 years for drinking and driving and seriously injuring another person. "I would never hurt anyone intentionally, so just knowing that someone was injured due to my negligence was very hard for me," he said.
Ponce wanted a change and turned to the volunteer program, along with 30 other inmates.
"I have a lot of time to do, I'm serving a life sentence for some home invasions, robberies," said Russelle.
Russelle said when he came to prison, he had two options. "Either take path A: I have nothing to lose, I have all this time I will never get out so I'll just come in here and be the stereotypical prisoner that society hears about that is violent," he said. However he, too, chose a different path to devote four years to all aspects of Christian ministry.
Some people, including Ponce, will one day get out of the prison's four walls. "I'd like to give back somehow, I'd like to be an advocate against drinking and driving," said Ponce.
As for Ruselle, he plans on spreading the word from within. "In an environment where there is chaos every day, I have peace," said Russelle.
The program began in 2008 and is held once a week. It is an all volunteer program and it's always in need of more.