Prison program inspires inmates for positive change

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Prison inmates often have a bad reputation, but some are working towards bettering themselves for their release back into society.

Part of that started inside Atonement Lutheran Church Sunday.

Michael Mims is one of the men on stage.  He sings bass. Mims said he is incarcerated at the Lansing Correctional Facility for aggravated robbery and murder.

“Fair to say I was a very selfish and irresponsible person,” Mims said.

This public appearance at the church is part of him trying to do right.

Mims is a part of the Arts In Prison program.  The program’s Executive Director Leigh Lynch said the program uses all arts, whether it’s singing, photography or painting, to inspire inmates to make positive change.

“Five thousand people a year come out of prison in the state of Kansas and we’re looking for ways to make sure that they have the tools and the skills to come out in a way that will positively impact out neighbors,” Lynch said.

She said the goals are to reduce repeat offenses and connect these inmates to the community again.  For those like Mims, opportunities like this are critical because he’s been in prison for 19 years.

“Well it’s fun coming out and interacting with society it’s also a challenge at times. And more so challenging for me because of the amount of time I’ve been incarcerated,” he said.

Mims has been practicing twice a week with his fellow inmates for the past year and a half.  The group call themselves The East Hill Singers.  Mims said through this program, he is learning more about himself and the public.

“There’s parts of society that has an open mind and it lets me know that I have to continue in my process forward with an open mind,” Mims said.

Mims said he will be released in 2015.  He said he hopes to open up a barber shop and be a consultant of some sort.  He said singing will be involved one way or another.

The inmates in this group are housed in the East Unit of the prison, which is the minimum-security area.

The group will be at Lenexa Baptist Church next Sunday.

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