Jim Clark describes himself as one of the guys who had been graced with great parents, a successful business career, and a family with three awesome children. Jim had a great life – the kind of life for which many only hope and dream. That life came to abrupt halt when he committed bank fraud in an attempt to keep his healthcare consulting company afloat (a huge mistake) and was sentenced to over three years in Leavenworth Federal Prison in August 2012.
“There is no ‘hope’ inside prison,” states Jim matter-of-factly. “You learn to develop a thick skin, and since there is so little that you can control, you learn to adapt. You also learn to appreciate anything that you do have. You learn how to live in hell.”
In the midst of so many losses and regrets, one area of his life that emerged was his faith. Jim is a life-long practicing Catholic, but admits that only in prison did his faith go from his head to his heart. In prison, Jim helped form a Catholic Parish (that served all Christians and others who just needed a helping hand). He learned that “faith is a verb – something I do, something I live.” The Catholic Parish was named after St. Maximillian Kolbe – who was a priest killed in Auschwitz. The parish served more than 300 inmates over the course of three years, conducted sacraments, hosted an annual Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and many other activities on a daily and weekly basis – and is still very much thriving today.
Thanks to a staunch friend and Kansas City business owner (and frequent visitor to Jim in prison) – Rick Dillon – Jim had the blessing of a fresh start in a career when he was released in 2015 and went to work with Rick in his merger and acquisition business. In every way, Rick gave Jim a second chance and in doing so, Jim became the first Good Samaritan ex-offender in the program. Jim, knowing that he wanted to give back to the community, engaged in a few low-cost probes. Investing time in Special Olympics and mentoring/coaching executives, he saw value in both, but “there was no personal pull.”
In 2016, Ken Williams, CEO of Catholic Charities, introduced Jim to the Halftime Institute, and Jim joined a Halftime cohort in September of 2016. He says now, “My story is both a Halftime Institute story and great coach story. My coach, Jennifer Parr, brought out the calling I was feeling, and helped me to open up to what God was wanting me to do.”
A pivotal Halftime moment for Jim was during the first day of the cohort’s Launch event. When asked to take part in the “Draw Your Life” exercise, he gained a whole new perspective. Jim saw how small the part of his life spent in prison had been compared to how much of his life had been wonderful and positive and blessed – and realized there was so much more he could still do. “It’s hard to forgive yourself,” Jim sighs. “I hurt so many people, especially my children and immediate family. But Halftime is also about healing.”
Shortly after the Halftime Launch, Jim reluctantly agreed to talk about life in prison as a part of a presentation to small business owners in the Catholic Business Network along with Archbishop Kelleher and Ken Williams from Catholic Charities. The objective of the presentation was to announce a jobs program for those leaving incarceration and to encourage the business owners to offer career-oriented positions. But no businesses stepped up. Going into the event in October of 2016, Jim had planned to walk away after the presentation. But as he observed the lack of response from the business owners, Jim knew he was being drawn in, as if “it was something I’d been tapped on the shoulder to do. Rick Dillon and I jumped in with both feet.”
So began Good Samaritan Response, a Christ-centered, multi-faceted jobs program that matches companies offering career roles with those leaving incarceration and drug rehabilitation who truly want and deserve a second chance. “Without meaningful employment, people re-entering society do not really have a chance to survive – they are on the side of the road – much less be successful in their lives.” Plus, with the current low unemployment rate, it’s more challenging for companies to find qualified, committed employees, so the matching becomes a win-win.
And what about unintended consequences? Jim’s excitement is clear as he shares, “This is a program that was focused originally on saving lives, and it does that for sure. The surprise has been watching the impact on companies when they let the Holy Spirit descend on them and their executives. When companies extend their hand as a Good Samaritan to someone ‘by the side of the road’, the culture of the business changes in positive ways.”
Good Samaritan Response is a collaboration of several partners. Jim serves as an Ambassador to the program while only focusing on businesses (he is still under parole and restricted from contacting ex-inmates). Rick Dillon, and another partner Steve Reimer, are helping to build the program with businesses and potential employees. Good Samaritan is also partnered with Alpha International, a tremendously successful program that introduces people to the Christian faith, both inside and outside of churches – including in prisons – in 169 countries. Alpha’s program impact is clear: The typical recidivism rate for offenders is 68% being re-arrested within 5 years, but the recidivism rate for those participating in the Alpha Reentry Initiative is significantly lower – only 20%.
Good Samaritan Response has begun placing their first employees, which will help keep recidivism rates low, changing lives and companies along the way. Starting in Kansas, its goal is to replicate in more cities and states in 2018 and beyond. The companies that are signing up range from small business to very large corporations – and all looking for high quality employees and giving them a second chance. “We believe God has a plan for this Program – we are merely serving him and thrilled to experience the adventure of a lifetime,” said Jim.
As Jim continues down this new path of significance in his second half, “this is a story that could only happen with God’s grace and direction,” he states emphatically. With regard to his own journey, “don’t underestimate the power of a Halftime coach! Jennifer in my first day of the cohort looked at me directly and said, ‘… Jim, you know you don’t have to say everything is always great. We know things are not.’ Jennifer my coach guided me, challenged me, pushed me, and supported me as I ‘got free, got clear, and got going’!”