Nearly forty inmates at the Morgan County Correctional Complex graduated Friday from a program marking their growth into becoming better fathers.
The will get to spend Saturday afternoon in the prison yard with their families for the Returning Hearts Celebration in a carnival-like event.
"I haven't seen my kids in three years," said Darryl Wiseman, one of the inmates who completed the Malachi Dads program.
The Malachi Dads program teaches inmates to be better fathers by promoting personal growth and decision making.
"I picked the streets before my family, and this program has shown me that God is first, then my family second," Wiseman said.
Wiseman spent the last year taking classes each week with volunteer mentors.
"I got saved while I was here in prison," Wiseman said. "It was about six months ago. It was one of the best feelings I ever had, accepting Jesus into my life."
Saturday's celebration gives Wiseman a chance to show his children how he has changed.
"I think I'm going to cry real hard first," Wiseman said. "I'm going to be nervous to see them because I want them to see a new side of me. They're going to be able to see that I have that glow, that I have that light and that I'm walking for him now, for Jesus. They're going to see the gentler side of me."
Tennessee Department of Corrections public information officer Robert Reburn says programs like Malachi Dads makes noticeable changes in the inmates.
"A lot of our offenders, their fathers and their fathers before them were in prison, so this is breaking that cycle," Reburn said. "So we really want to break that cycle and we want to strengthen those familial ties because a strong family unit, once an offender gets out and is going to provide more support so that when they get out they are less likely to come back."
Reburn said that TDOC does not statistically measure the impact of programs such as Malachi Dads, but says the impact is evident.
"We can say for a fact that offenders who are still in our custody and enrolled in these programs are less argumentative, they get less discipline, they cause fewer problems and they are overall much more well behaved than those who are not participating in programs such as the Malachi Dads and Focus Ministries," Reburn said.
Wiseman has served three years of a 12 year sentence. He says that since he first came to prison, he's come to know the purpose for his life.
"It changed my life, it really did. If changed me on how to be a man and a father to my children and tomorrow (Saturday) it's going to be the best feeling in the world.