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TDCJ participates in statewide initiative
for at-risk youth

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is partnering with several state and private entities to launch a statewide program aimed at matching trained adult mentors with children whose parents are incarcerated within the state prison system.

On Thursday, March 9, Gov. Rick Perry announced a $3.78 million grant to launch Amachi Texas, a collaborative effort between TDCJ, the Office of the Governor, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the OneStar Foundation.

The Amachi Program was founded in 2001 by former Philadelphia mayor, the Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode Sr., and has since spread to more than 100 cities across the United States. In Nigerian, "amachi" means "Who knows what God has brought us through this child?"

In Texas, the Amachi program will provide mentoring opportunities for 1,300 children who have a parent behind bars. The goal will be to expand the program to benefit thousands more in the future.

This is not the first state prison initiative aimed at helping the families of incarcerated felons. TDCJ launched its "Giving Offenders’ Kids Incentive and Direction to Succeed," or "GO KIDS" program in December 2004 as a means of strengthening the bond between offenders and their children.

"For some time now, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been committed to implementing programs that serve to strengthen the bond between children and their incarcerated parents," said Christina Crain, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, the nine-member board which oversees the TDCJ. "Participating in this new initiative between TDCJ, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Onestar feels like a natural extension of those critical programs.

"Findings by the U.S. Bureau of Justice indicate that children of offenders have a 70 percent greater likelihood of becoming involved in the criminal justice system themselves," Crain continued. "This multi-agency effort will serve one of the most at-risk populations in our society and hopefully help break this vicious cycle."

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