The Second Chances 5K Offers a Second Chance at Life
Running is a communal activity. While we compete on an individual level, all the runners we have encountered agree that running is far more enjoyable when done with others. It’s one of the only events we know of where amateurs and elite can compete at the same event, on the same day – where it is not uncommon for 15-minute milers to cross paths with the 5-minute milers. Runners, no matter their pace or professional involvement, encourage one another to become the best versions of themselves.
It is in this spirit and tradition of community and camaraderie, that the Second Chances 5k Run/Walk was born. When Minneapolis Running was first made aware of this event last year we didn’t know about the challenges facing those coming out of our nation’s prisons. After corresponding with Craig DeRoche, Sr. VP of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Prison Fellowship, we learned further about the obstacles these folks face and how running is a perfect metaphor and opportunity for change.
DeRoche had many insightful things to share about the Prison Fellowship’s campaign, the Second Prison Project and the Second Chances 5K and we have decided to share much of the interview below.
What is the Second Prison Project?
The Second Prison Project is a campaign of the Prison Fellowship, a movement of people raising up a collective voice to eliminate the second prison in America and to promote the value of those with a criminal record through acts of service, advocacy, and leadership. It envisions a world with no second prison—a world where men and women are valued and freed to give back at their highest potential.
DeRoche explains, “Prison Fellowship’s Second Chances 5K race helps engage the community to raise awareness about the obstacles faced by 65 million American adults- one in four people – who have a criminal record.
In fact, “there are over 48,000 legal collateral consequences of a criminal conviction like an inability to secure employment, housing, and other things necessary to live a full and productive life. These legal barriers often apply regardless of how long ago the offense was committed.”
Why Help People with a Criminal Record?
“Leaving prison is one of the most disorienting experiences imaginable,” continued DeRoche. “A person who is convicted of a crime is sentenced to repay their debt to the victim and community. Many times that includes jail or prison time. Once a person has repaid that portion of their debt in serving time, they are usually left to sink or swim on their own. This is a difficult period of time because going to prison often fractures relationships and reduces access to material possessions like a vehicle and a place to live. Prisoners can leave with nothing.” said DeRoche.
“On top of the practical and logistical hurdles, society has lumped in an extraordinary and seemingly indiscriminate list of barriers to living in a self-sufficient and crime-free life such as the inability to vote, secure employment or professional licenses, volunteer, and access housing. The barriers to reentry can actually incentivize new crime and new victims. They keep people in government subsidies instead of paying their own way with a job. The barriers make it difficult for families to stay together and for our communities to heal.”
DeRoche continued, “We should help people to have a second chance at life because they have done what society and the court has asked by repaying their debt. 95% of all prisoners return to the community. Only a very small fraction of people ever convicted of a felony in Minnesota are in the prison system today. They have done their time and made things right but we prevent them from moving forward.”
Why a 5K?
A public event like the Second Chances 5K in the streets of St. Paul, plus the 5K races inside of Minnesota prisons, sends a powerful message:
There is no such thing as a throwaway person. Each of us has value and potential, including those who have paid their debts.
“Prison Fellowship is the largest outreach to prisoners and their families in America. Many of our volunteers have been convicted of crimes themselves or had loved ones in the system,” said DeRoche. “It is amazing how many of them – even with their own barriers and limits – pour themselves into helping others today. They are active in mission work, cancer fundraising and so many other good causes.”
“This is our second year and we agree that the 5K is a special opportunity to rally together around a challenging and healthy event.”
The Second Chances 5K
At the Second Chances 5K Run/Walk, the Twin Cities community will come together not just to run a race, but to be part of a national movement to fully restore those whose lives have been affected by crime and incarceration. This movement includes people still behind bars.
“There has been an outpouring of support from community leaders in Minnesota since [the inaugural race in] 2016,” said DeRoche. “This year, the city has been so supportive and we expect the Mayor to be at the event!”
Race Day Details
The Second Chances 5k race will be held on Sunday, April 23 at the Sea Foam Stadium on the campus of Concordia University in St. Paul (281 Hamline Ave N, St Paul, MN 55104). The race begins at 9:30 a.m., with a pre-race rally before. Unlike some awareness sorts of races, this one will be chip timed, with awards given out to top finishers.
One Event: Four 5Ks
Something else special about this event is that on the same day, at the same time, there will be three other events happening. The Prison fellowship has partnered with the MN Department of Corrections to host 5K runs behind prison walls at prisons in Lino Lakes, Shakopee, and Stillwater Correctional Facilities. At these events, incarcerated people will be running for the second chance to be a productive citizen. It’s a way for us to show support and solidarity with those who can’t be there in person.
“This program was very successful in the inaugural event last year,” says DeRoche. “Between the community race and the three races inside of prisons in Minnesota, there were approximately 1,200 people running for second chances at the same time.”
Overall, the prisoners indicated that the camaraderie that was involved in completing the race was the most meaningful component of the 5K.
New this year, KARE 11 will place a pool camera inside of the prison for the first time to get footage of the event. The goal is to bring people together inside and outside of prison to unite and support second chances; it is truly inspiring to those on the outside to know that people in prison are running for their second chance opportunity!
You don’t need to be a runner to get involved! “We encourage everyone to promote Second Chance Month – it can be as simple as utilizing Prison Fellowship’s social media tools,” says DeRoche.
Prison Fellowship would not be able to have the amount of impact that it does on those affected by crime and incarceration without the dedication and faithfulness of volunteers and advocates. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, you can submit your information on the Prison Fellowship website and a staff member will contact you and offer opportunities based on your interests.
You can also become an online advocate for Prison Fellowship. Online advocates receive alerts with actions that they can take to make a difference in their communities (it can be as easy as donating a signature!)
Register Now to Make a Difference
Check out the Second Chances 5k race website to register and learn more.