Within the walls of the Ruben M. Torres State Prison in Hondo, Tex., pool builder Michael Logsdon is helping inmates find hope for themselves and make a new start in life.
For the past three years, Logsdon, a landscape architect and pool builder located in nearby Boerne, has been volunteering at the prison to share both his faith in God and experience as a recovering alcoholic. Working with other volunteers, in a ministry called Kairos, he leads three-day spiritual retreats that focuses on God's love and forgiveness. In addition there are weekly follow ups of "prayer and share" meetings and weekend reunions. All to allow the incarcerated men, who have been convicted of serious crimes the opportunity to gather and continue their journey of healing and learning ways to make positive life changing choices to live a lifestyle without crime.
"It's an amazing experience that has changed my life and I'm proud to play a small role in helping others change theirs," he says. "Fact is, most of the people in prison will eventually get out and rejoin society. Because of that there's been a shift toward rehabilitation; people who run correctional facilities have learned that incarceration without rehabilitation does not work. It's better to have inmates believing they have hope for the future and are loved by God, rather than thinking their only path forward is crime and addiction."
Logsdon reports that his meetings draw 60 to 70 people, many of whom have committed crimes as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. "Vehicular manslaughter is very common," he says. "Most of them accept why they're there and have learned that life can change instantly with just one mistake. The question then becomes how do they move forward?"
The perils of addiction are familiar to Logsdon, who has been recovering from alcoholism for the past eight years. Candid and forthcoming, he admits that finding his faith in God and entering Alcoholics Anonymous saved him from the same fate as those living behind bars.
"The only difference between them and me is that I didn't get caught," he says. "I was at the point where I almost lost everything, my family, friends and business, and I could've just as easily been right where they are now. I definitely hit rock bottom, but when I turned to God's love I was able to become sober. Now I want to share that experience and hope with people who need it the most, people who one day will again be our neighbors."
As is true of others who do volunteer work, Logsdon says that he gets as much or more out of the experience than those he's helping. "I'm so thankful for them, they do more for me than I could ever do for them. The experience of recovery, my faith and now volunteering influences all aspects of my life," he says.
Those who know Logsdon only as an accomplished landscape architect and president of a thriving pool company might be surprised to learn he credits his experience with inmates for part of his success. "I'm a better businessman, a better designer, a better father, husband and friend. It's a humbling experience and also inspiring to see the change in many of these people," he says.
"Yes, they've made mistakes, serious mistakes," Logsdon says, "but through God's love and the healing power of recovery; they're able to regain hope. I believe to some extent that's true for most everyone. We all make mistakes and we all need to forgiven and loved. That's true whether you're in prison or out in society building swimming pools."