We had the good fortune of connecting with John Sage and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, how does your business help the community or world?
I recently read that the United States spends approximately $91 billion on incarceration each year; however, that is the cost of the corrections portion alone. The related and resultant economic burden on society is much greater. Some of the most significant of these social costs include: lost wages while incarcerated; reduced post-release employment and wages; higher rate of mortality; and the deleterious effect of the prison environment on post-release behavior. Additional significant costs result from the increased potential for criminal behavior by the children of incarcerated parents, as well as their decreased education levels and subsequent lower wages as adults. These tremendous social burdens mean that the true cost of incarceration could exceed $500 billion per year. (Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation, October 2016). The Bridges To Life (BTL) restorative justice program reduces crime in the community by lowering the recidivism rate of the offenders who complete our 14-week program, and heals victims of crime who participate in our program as volunteers. BTL accomplishes these goals through its unique “victim impact” approach. Over the course of each 14-week BTL project, volunteers meet weekly with inmate participants inside the prison unit. Groups of 10 inmates are assigned two BTL volunteer facilitators, one or both of whom may be a crime victim. Each group follows the Bridges To Life curriculum, which is centered on accountability, responsibility, forgiveness, repentance and restitution. The process results in a healing journey for both offender and victim alike. Starting with 41 inmate graduates in one Texas prison in 1999, the Bridges to Life curriculum has now been used in prisons and alternative facilities throughout Texas as well as 13 other states and 6 foreign countries. BTL has graduated more than 53,000 men and women and benefited over 3,000 courageous victim and facilitator volunteer participants, as well as the communities where these inmates return to live after release from prison. Furthermore, the impact of BTL on improved inmate behavior inside the prisons has prompted wardens, chaplains, and prison officers to request and implement the BTL program in their prisons. In order to continue our program during the COVID -19 restrictions, BTL has developed a self-study model that has recently been implemented in over 50 prisons. Bridges To Life is considered to be a model restorative justice program with a well-developed and seasoned curriculum. The program reduces crime, saves lives and millions of taxpayer dollars, and helps make our community a safer place to live. For further information, please visit www.bridgestolife.org John Sage Founder/CEO Bridges To Life
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I founded Bridges To Life in 1998 after the brutal murder of my sister, Marilyn, in 1993. In the wake of this tragic event, I realized the terrible toll it had taken, not only on me and my family’s lives, but also on those of my sister’s friends, co-workers, and community. Guided by faith, I developed the Bridges To Life program to bring crime victims into the prison system to tell their stories and share with offenders the impact of crime on their lives. The mission of Bridges To Life is to connect communities to prisons to reduce the recidivism rate, particularly that resulting from violent crimes, and thereby effect a consequent reduction in crime and increase in public safety. BTL is a nationally recognized program, receiving the Judith Coleman Chaplaincy Offender Program of the Year Award from the American Correctional Chaplains Association in 2015. I was honored to be chosen by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from among over 20,000 volunteers as the 2017 Carol Vance Volunteer of the Year. Bridges To Life is considered to be a model restorative justice program with a well-developed and seasoned curriculum, which has been used in fourteen states and six foreign countries. The program has reduced crime, saved lives and millions of taxpayer dollars, and helped make our communities safer places to live. Regarding personal challenges and lessons learned along the way, there are too many to list them all. However, I can conclude that faith, family, and perseverance were the primary factors that led to whatever success I have experienced. Some of the lessons learned involve learning and accepting my strengths and weaknesses, realizing and embracing that I am not in charge, and living my life in the present, one day at a time. I think these lessons plus daily gratitude for all that I have in life have been essential to achieving an increased level of peace and contentment.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For starters on dining, I would take them to a Mexican restaurant and a BBQ place in the area where I live. I would take them to see a few key sites in Houston, like NRG stadium and Minute Maid Park, downtown Houston, Memorial Park, and the Galleria. If they are interested, we would visit one or more museums. I would take them on a day trip to Galveston and dine at a local seafood restaurant. Visiting NASA is always a possibility. We would spend some time with our grandchildren and maybe attend one of their sporting events. If they wanted to see more of Texas, probably would go visit my son’s family in New Braunfels and experience swimming in the river and other attractions there
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate this Shoutout to the staff of Bridges To Life and the 3,000 volunteers who have helped make this happen over the last 22 years.
Facebook: Bridges To Life
Group picture of inmates and volunteers at a Bridges To Life Graduation in the Holliday Prison Unit located in Huntsville, TX. John Sage is pictured on the far left on third row.