Revonn Miller is the director of a non-profit organization called Life, Liberty and Lotus in Bainbridge. She recently gave a presentation to Decatur County commissioners about her program, which seeks to return prison inmates to productive lives in the community.
From its website, “Life Liberty & Lotus, Inc is a non-residential, 501 (c) 3 organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service that currently offers the Lotus Program and the Lotus Mentoring Program for Adult Male Offenders. Programs that address substance abuse and housing needs will also be established to assist offenders and their families in becoming more productive citizens of society.”
The organization has a board of directors, and Pastor John Wooden of Saint Paul M.B. Church is the chairman of the board.
Miller is a former probation officer, so she has seen first-hand how young men and women wind up in prison. She’s proposing that Decatur County government officials consider her program as an alternative for people convicted of nonviolent crimes that would otherwise stay in prison.
One of the main components of her program is the nine-month “Motivation for Change” course that she would require anyone sent to her to take. The people on probation would live in the community, but would be required to check in with Miller regularly and attend meetings and classes. Miller has been teaching “Motivation for Change” to inmates at the Decatur County Correctional Institute.
“Low-level offenders are considered more of a nuisance than a threat to the community,” Miller explained. “They are in need of programming to address the behaviors that sent them to prison, in the hopes of keeping them from returning.”
Life, Liberty and Lotus worked with youth offenders who are sentenced to probation–they take a special 9-month course called STARS for Youth. The first teen graduated from the program in October of 2014. The organization is entirely funded by donations.
Kendra Jessie, whose son graduated from the STARS for Youth class in October 2014, told county commissioners that the program had transformed her son, who had been in trouble in school and expelled.
“The program has taught him that every choice he makes has a consequence, and he has motivated himself to make a change in his life,” Jesse said. “He stays out of trouble and is attending classes to get his GED.”
“Ms. Miller often checks up on him. She’s worked with him to figure out the roots of his behavior and figure out the roots of his emotions. He had to get some past hurts off his chest before he could move forward. She’s saved my son.”
Ms. Miller said she would be able to provide the Life, Liberty and Lotus program for $13 per day for each probationer sent to her, and noted that would be a significant savings in comparison to the $33 per day it costs to house each inmate at the Decatur County Prison (also known as DCCI).
Miller suggested a possible cost savings come could when, instead of sending people who violate their probation back to the county jail–where they might wait 20 days before their probation is revoked–the offenders are instead sent to Life, Liberty and Lotus.
She said it’s commonly asked, ‘why not have offenders pay for the program?’ She responded by noting that people sentenced to prison time already have court fines and probation fees they have to pay off, and as a result, some conscientious judges are wary to put more on offenders than they are capable of paying off.
“We know we have to make some changes in utilizing our tax dollars to reform those who break the law,” County Commission Chairman Dennis Brinson said. “We will take the proposal into consideration.”
You can learn more about the people who started Life, Liberty and Lotus at its website.