Eagles Nest Ministries Completes the Parenting Process
Tucked away in one of the most scenic residential areas in Montgomery County is an established outreach where post incarcerated individuals and their families can reclaim hope. Hope for a life outside the concrete and razor wire of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Eagles Nest Ministries Pastor Jeff Williams wants to talk straight to the community about the urgent and growing need for his proven method of reducing reincarceration or recidivism.
In 2006, Eagles Nest Ministries formed an outreach, eventually providing housing, counseling, spiritual and vocational assistance to those in need. By 2016, Eagles Nest Ministries developed Soaring Eagle’s Academy, a 12 month program targeting post incarcerated individuals. “Our plan is back-to-basics in nature. We’re giving people who have a common denominator like absentee fathers, a family life, accountability, guidance and safety. This was an organic outgrowth of what we were already doing at Eagles Nest. The problem is, these men are broken and we want to restore what was lost in their life”, says Williams.
Enrollees begin to learn a trade and are caught up with educational needs. Then they’re taught how to interview for a job, and given counseling along with their families. All of this helps as an effort to keep the recidivism rate low, which is currently around seven percent.
“These people cannot continue to just get out of prison with $100, the clothes they wore to their last court date, and a ‘see ya later’ Williams states. At Eagles Nest Ministries and Soaring Eagles Academy, we are talking about real solutions, while others are talking about problems.”
In 16 years, Eagles Nest Ministries, which includes a community church, reports no scandals and no 911 calls. The outreach sits in the middle of an established neighborhood, and Willams says there are zero problems with the residents. “Homelessness is a more palatable topic for the public to get behind with solutions. People have a misconception that we get funding from the state,” Williams says, “I get letters from inmates, parents of inmates, and others begging us to take them into the program, and there is literally nothing we can do for them. I will spend this week contacting these men, telling them we can’t help them.”
TDCJ has been closing a unit a year for the last decade, with the 2020 closure of the Beeville and Sugarland units, according to their own website. The inmates? Well, they were diverted. Meaning, they went to county jails to complete their sentences. Others paroled early.
In fact, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Director, Brian Collier, attributes the reduction in state inmate population to diversion, according to a Texas Tribune article published in February of 2020. Parolees are released only if they have a suitable place to go, yet the State of Texas has approximately five half-way houses operating. Collier along with State Senator John Whitemire claim the population in TDCJ facilities in 2020 dropped from 150,000 to around 140,000.
That’s a lot of diversion going on. Statewide diversion that directly affects your county. Remember, these are the latest figures posted on the TDCJ website.
Still not convinced there’s a need in our communities? The Montgomery County Jail is at capacity which is a little over 1,000 inmates (as of March 31, 2020). Each month TDCJ releases 100 parolees into Montgomery County, and 1,200 per year are given their $100, their clothes, and sent out. Couple that number with the 101 facilities statewide, where the exact same thing is happening. This affects every community. Families of the incarcerated don’t speak up because of a number of reasons: shame, fear, or being fed up with the repeated lock ups of their relatives.
While there are approximately 40,000 faith-based organizations operating on the inside of the prison system, about four thousand faith based organizations exist outside the gates such as Eagles Nest Ministries.
Eagles Nest Ministries offers bi-monthly lunches on Thursdays for community leaders, law enforcement and schools to get informed about this burgeoning problem. “It’s a community responsibility. I need to tell people the truth and hope they understand that doing nothing is really not an option for our county and others.” says Williams. “We need more families of the post incarcerated to speak up about what they are going through in finding programs to keep their relatives from returning to prison.”
Williams is actively seeking opportunities to speak to service groups, business leaders, churches, and schools to educate Montgomery County residents about this issue.
“These are people,” says Williams. “We have to be prepared to equip them for life, and walk with them for life in order to keep them from being repeat offenders.”
Eagles Nest Ministries and its Soaring Eagles Academy needs you to get engaged in the conversation. There are a variety of ways that you can help those who, in many cases, have been thrown away. Williams doesn’t consider himself a prison reform warrior. He’s just a man who saw a huge need and stuck his finger in the proverbial dike. If Eagles Nest’s Soaring Eagles Academy doesn’t attract the interest to begin a solutions based dialogue, what will Montgomery County be like in the very near future?
If you would like to make a donation to our cause, visit us at eaglesnestconroe.com/donate