The Early Days, Part 1 - How We Started
The story of C4JT began in August, 2019, when Steve Gordon visited the graduation of the eighth cohort from the Sevier County, Arkansas jail program in DeQueen at the invitation of Sterling Penix, director of the Arkansas Jail Standards Board. These graduations had gained so much momentum and impact on Sevier County that they had outgrown the biggest venue in the county! It was an amazing event – a true celebration of transformation.
In March of 2020, Sterling invited Steve to speak at the second annual Arkansas Jail Resource Day conference in Little Rock. At the close of the day, Steve challenged the 150 attendees to work together over the next year, so that we could return to the third annual conference with something tangible in hand. The vision was born for the Roadmap to Jail Transformation, which was produced by the Arkansas Jail Resource Day Virtual Working Group (via Zoom) from April 2020 to February 2021. It was successfully presented to the conference in May 2021.
In January 2021, Debbie Bland (now our Executive Director) spoke at one of the graduations in Sevier County, sharing her testimony. There she was interviewed by a team from the Discovery Channel who was making a documentary about the amazing transformation happening in this small community in southwest Arkansas. When she learned the eight-episode special would be shown to the entire nation, she realized that God was about to bring a whole new set of opportunities for ministering in and helping transform small jails nationwide!
She approached Steve about creating an organization “to get ahead of this thing” as it was easy to foresee a huge groundswell of interest in exactly how to transform a jail to get results similar to those in Sevier County. We did so in April 2021 and are underway!