Sen. John Cornyn Honored by Nation’s Largest Prison Ministry

Prison Fellowship’s Inaugural Charles Colson Advocate of Hope Award Recognizes Senate Judiciary Committee Member’s Tireless Work Toward Restorative Criminal Justice Reform

Prison Fellowship named U.S. Sen. John Cornyn today as the recipient of the first annual Charles Colson Advocate of Hope award, in recognition of his leadership and faithful advocacy toward a more restorative criminal justice system.

The senator, previously the attorney general of Texas and a Texas Supreme Court justice, has been an outspoken champion on Capitol Hill for criminal justice reform, offering a strong, compassionate voice for those affected by incarceration as he fights for responsible legislation to help break the cycle of crime.

“Senator Cornyn shares with Prison Fellowship and our late founder Chuck Colson a vision of a future criminal justice system that upholds restorative principles of proportional punishment, constructive prison culture, and second chances,” said Craig DeRoche, Prison Fellowship’s senior vice president for advocacy and public policy. “We are grateful both for his track record and his ongoing commitment to advancing needed reforms, which is a powerful example to all federal and state legislators.”

Prison Fellowship recognizes Cornyn for his leadership since the time of his judgeship, his accomplishments as attorney general of Texas, and his continued diligence as a compassionate advocate for justice in the U.S. Senate, where he sponsored the CORRECTIONS Act, which became Title II of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The legislation passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support in 2015, and Cornyn—who was nominated for this award by the Texas Public Policy Foundation—continues to push for the legislation to come to the Senate floor for a vote.

Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners, former prisoners and their families, also named five other inaugural recipients of the Charles Colson Hope Awards, which will annually recognize people who have faithfully and courageously worked to restore those affected by crime and incarceration. Colson, the late former special counsel to President Richard Nixon whose crimes related to the Watergate scandal resulted in a prison sentence, became a Christian shortly before serving his sentence and went on to found Prison Fellowship 40 years ago today.

“I am privileged to find myself leading the organization that Chuck Colson founded 40 years ago today. Chuck was at ease equally with presidents and prisoners, and had a unique talent to engage wardens and pastors, lay people and legislators,” said James Ackerman, the new president and chief executive officer of Prison Fellowship. “No matter the audience or the occasion, he remained a passionate advocate for incarcerated people and their families, and today we’re pleased to announce the first recipients of these awards that bear his name.”

The other 2016 recipients of the Charles Colson Hope Awards, people who demonstrate characteristics for which Colson was admired, are:

  • Mary Kay Beard, posthumous recipient of the Restorer of Hope award, which honors a person who, with sustained compassion for the terrible weight borne by the families of the incarcerated, comes alongside them to help carry their burden, share God’s love and offer hope for restoration

    A former bank robber, Beard joined the staff of Prison Fellowship after her own release from prison. Recalling the mothers she met during her incarceration who carefully saved items like soap and socks in order to have something to give their children during Christmas visits, Beard founded Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program in 1982, which is now the only nationwide, year-round program that reaches out exclusively to children who have a parent in prison and has partnered with thousands of local churches in 50 states to deliver more than 10 million Christmas gifts to prisoners’ children. Chuck Colson’s family nominated Beard, who died earlier this year.
  • Burl Cain, recipient of the Servant of Hope award, which honors a person who has brought the message of hope, redemption and restoration into correctional environments

    The legendary former warden of Louisiana’s Angola State Penitentiary, Cain’s 30 years of leadership helped transform the prison from one of the bloodiest and most notorious in the country to an enduring culture of dignity and mutual respect.
  • Danny Croce, recipient of the Champion of Hope award, which honors a person whose life has been directly impacted by incarceration—either as a former prisoner or as the child of an incarcerated parent—and who has overcome obstacles and opposition to realize his or her God-given potential

    While incarcerated in Massachusetts’ Plymouth County Jail in 1985, Croce received a Bible and was transformed by the power of the gospel. He overcame addiction, grew stronger in his faith, pursued a religious education upon release to eventually become a prison chaplain and head up his own prison chaplain ministry. At Chuck Colson’s request, Croce spoke at Colson’s memorial service in the National Cathedral in 2012. Colson’s widow, Patty, nominated Croce for the award.
  • David and Charlotte Cauwels, recipients of the Legacy of Hope award, which honors a person, family or foundation that has invested faithfully and generously in the restoration of those affected by crime and incarceration, thus enabling Prison Fellowship to make significant advancements in its mission

    Since the ministry’s early days, the Cauwelses have invested not only financial resources, but also countless hours of their time. They have coordinated teaching and discipleship ministries in prisons, and recruited, trained and equipped volunteers to reach their greatest potential in service. David has visited prisons weekly for some 40 years and served more than 31 years on the Prison Fellowship board of directors. Charles Colson often referred to David as his closest confidant and advisor.


“Our extended family is delighted that Prison Fellowship is honoring these faithful people for continuing my father’s legacy of bringing hope and restoration to those affected by crime and incarceration,” said Christian Colson, son of Charles Colson and a Prison Fellowship board member. “Their fruitful lives are a reminder that our father’s impact on prison ministry, prison culture and justice reform has been broad and lasting.”


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Prison Fellowship is the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners, former prisoners and their families, and a leading advocate for criminal justice reform.