California Benefactors Help State’s Prisons

$2+ Million Program Will Help Reduce Prison Racism, Violence and Significantly Cut Recidivism

Californians Wayne and Wendy Hughes are contributing more than $2 million to reduce racism and violence in California prisons. The Christian outreach program, The Urban Ministry Institute, also will prepare California inmates to return home as spiritual leaders who will help restore peace to their communities that have long been torn by violence.

"Deep budget cuts have pretty much eliminated programs to rehabilitate our state's prisoners," said businessman Wayne Hughes. "Wendy and I are stepping up to the plate to expand a program that will make a huge difference in our prisons and, ultimately, in our cities."

The Hughes grant will expand The Urban Ministry Institute leadership training program, an innovative partnership between Prison Fellowship, the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, and World Impact, a Christian missions organization committed to the urban poor.

"Our prison system is broken, and the criminal justice system just doesn't work," Hughes observed. "About 60 percent of the state's paroled prisoners return to prison again. We must break this cycle. For many Californians, inmates are 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind,' but all Californians should be concerned with the consequences of our failure to rehabilitate prisoners."

Prison Fellowship, under agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, operates the voluntary four-year, 16-course program that includes a seminary-level training curriculum. The Hughes grant will eventually expand The Urban Ministry Institute to prisons across the state. As graduates are released, they will bring peacemaking and leadership skills, proven in prison, with them as they return to troubled areas. 
"God touches these men and women," Hughes said, "and transforms them into agents for good; just as He touched my heart to become involved." Hughes said he hopes his example will motivate others to support Christian outreach to inmates.

"Because of their business experience, Wayne and Wendy Hughes recognize that programs like The Urban Ministry Institute, significantly cut recidivism by investing in people," said Prison Fellowship CEO Jim Liske. "They are putting their faith to work to reduce urban violence."

But Hughes believes that giving money is not enough. In addition to the $2,165,000 gift to expand The Urban Ministry Institute, Wayne Hughes has taken a hands-on approach, visiting California prisons at Norco, Centinela and the Pitchess Honor Farm in Los Angeles County to work personally with inmates. Hughes recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Angola State Prison in Louisiana, where he observed firsthand how prisoners were being trained to become pastors.

"It is remarkable how Angola, once America's most dangerous prison, is now one of the safest," Hughes said. "I'm committed to the moral and ethical training The Urban Ministry Institute will provide for California inmates, and the impact it will have on their families and communities upon their release."

INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY: Interview Wayne Hughes about his interest in California's prisons, what he learned in his prison visits, and why he is funding this program.

  • Contact: Dave Louden at 703.554.8432