Thank your for the sensitive lead editorial (Feb. 11) regarding the character dorms in prisons. Too often we hear “lock ’em up and throw away the key.” But this is a costly and counterproductive attitude.

In South Carolina the annual cost of custody for an individual approaches $25,000 for food, clothing, medical, security and facility maintenance. The cost of construction of the prison and subsequent depreciation is not included.

A total direct cost per prisoner might be $50,000 or more per year when all factors are included. With over 23,000 inmates in the S.C. Department of Corrections, we are burdened with over a billion dollars in direct and indirect costs each year.

This staggering sum does not even include the county and city jail systems.

An additional hidden cost is the loss of productivity and resultant loss of tax revenue along with the welfare burden in caring for indigent dependents.

A large percentage of our inmate population is the result of the revolving door of recidivism. One of the most reliable predictors of future incarceration is previous incarceration.

Our penal system is burdened with declining budgets and has little money to devote to rehabilitation, and the bias of society against ex-offenders often applauds this condition. These two factors are very costly in money and in wasted lives and perpetuation of threats to our domestic security and tranquility.

Leonard Pitts, in a recent commentary, relayed the plea of an inmate he identified as “Russell”: “What are we going to do to make a difference?”

His Way Ministry addresses this question. His Way operates on the premise that both mind and spirit must be changed to break the cycle of re-incarceration. This faith-based organization offers the love and redemption of Jesus Christ and life skill formation to make a difference in the lives of many.

The membership of volunteers is diverse: Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, black, white, men, women, Republicans, Democrats, professionals, laborers, contractors, former offenders and the never-convicted unite to make a difference.

The method is twofold: Preparation in the prison prior to release and nurture upon release with mentoring by individuals and support groups. Testimonies prove that hardened criminals can be changed.

His Way operates with a very limited annual budget of $20,000, funded primarily by institutions, churches and the individuals of the ministry. We will repeat our first attempt at a fund-raising event during Piccolo Spoleto.

We are partnering with Lovely Hill Baptist Church of Holly Hill to offer a gospel concert, at historic St. Johannes Lutheran Church, 48 Hassell St. Watch for an announcement in the Piccolo calendar, and come enjoy a concert of authentic African-American Gospel.

For more information about His Way and testimonials, visit http://hiswaysc.org/

THOMAS BULLOCK

Rice Pond Road

Charleston