"Lock up to lift up" 

Rep. James White encourages offenders, families from six prisons to continue success

Representative-White-Speaking"One good quality decision will set the standard for you to make another quality decision the next day," said Rep. James White (R-Hillister) to GED graduates from Windham School District (WSD). As Vice Chair of the Texas House of Representatives Corrections Committee, White visited prison to urge graduates to continue to make quality decisions and reach for new challenges: vocational training, community college, college, diplomas and degrees.

White delivered an enthusiastic and encouraging commencement speech to visiting family members and offenders from six school sites, including the Eastham, Ellis, Estelle, Goree, Huntsville and Wynne units. He told the group that support for correctional education comes from correctional staff and the public, as well as family members.

Offender-receiving-diploma"You would be surprised at the high regard and thoughtfulness your correctional officers have for you," he said, citing examples of officers personally telling him that programs such as education make a difference in rehabilitation of offenders. "Your correction officers are often communicating with me on what they believe is in your best interest -- and most of the time they’re right. They are helping us to reintegrate you back into our free society."

White said the public shares this view, as well.

"The people of Texas -- they get it, too," he said. "Oftentimes in the Wal-Mart line or at church or walking through the community, they will ask me questions or have advice or suggestions about criminal justice. They ask two things, primarily. They say, ‘Representative, what are you doing to rehabilitate, educate and train these men and women that come back into our society? We know that a vast majority of them will come back to us. We’re not really concerned about the lock-up, Representative White, we’re more concerned about the lift-up!’"

White expanded his remarks to praise family members for their support, telling graduates, "There’s another important element in this process, … look to your left [at the family members] because that is what this celebration is really about right now.

"These men and women have developed callouses on their knees, with tears flowing like a river, praying [for you] over and over and over. Sometimes these mamas and grandmas and aunts wonder if their petitions to the Lord and nights of tears really matter. They’ve toiled, and they’ve cared for you, and that’s really what today is about. Today is their day; it’s a big win for them!"

Estelle-Family-imageWhite told the graduates their achievement will impact other offenders: "You will become an example to all of the inmates you will go back and interact with; you’ll show them they can succeed, because you’ve done it!" He also encouraged offenders to "never give up" and reminded everyone else to never give up on those who are trying to better themselves.

"With that, I want to tell the graduates, correctional staff, family members and friends: God bless you, and through you, God will continue to bless the great state of Texas," he said.

Rep. James White represents constituents from Southeast Texas District 19: Polk, Tyler, Jasper, Newton and Hardin counties. He is a former army officer, public school teacher and high school coach, and he has served on the Texas joint committee of Human Trafficking, and the Agriculture and Livestock Committee. He currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Corrections Committee and is a committee member of the Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement and Juvenile Justice and Family Issues committees.