Limestone University Professor of Business Administration Dr. Michael Scharff recently spent some time “behind bars” inside Greenville’s Haywood Mall, though it was all for a worthy cause.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, Scharff spent four hours inside of a mock jail cell as part of an installation raising awareness for JUMPSTART Ministries, a Christian organization that is dedicated to helping both current and formerly incarcerated people transition to life after they get out of prison.
Scharff, who is the Department Chair of Management and Director of Business Administration at Limestone, has been on the Board of Directors of JUMPSTART for eight years and is currently serving his fourth term as the Board Chair.
JUMPSTART Ministries began in 2008, when a small group of volunteers began outreach to people who were incarcerated at the Tyger River Correctional Institute in Spartanburg County. They currently have more than 150 volunteers ministering in 17 South Carolina prisons. It has also expanded outside of South Carolina, with state chapters in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and North Carolina.
Scharff notes that many people often lack real choices once they get out of prison, where they may be without family or other support, and struggle to find jobs and housing because of their criminal records.
“To me, it’s not surprising that people end up right back where they started, because we didn’t really set them up for success,” said from inside the mock cell while wearing a blue Limestone sweater. “And that’s really what JUMPSTART is about – to jumpstart their success. It has been an honor to help bring more awareness to this program by spending some time behind these bars at Haywood Mall.”
JUMPSTART touts an enormous success rate, with 96 percent of its graduates never going back to prison, well above the state (73 percent) and national (30 percent) averages.
The rehabilitation process begins with the Inside Program, a 40-week intensive of classes that starts while participants are still incarcerated. After they are released, they can enter the year-long Outside Program, where the organization collaborates with local community partners to help provide participants with stable employment, housing, and access to healthcare, among other valuable services.
Accompanying photo: Dr. Michael Scharff “behind bars” at Haywood Mall on November 28.