NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — North Dakota’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has a new initiative known as “Restoring Promises.”

Its goal? To help inmates bring back some hope in their lives.

The purpose of the Restoring Promises initiative is to show young residents ages 18-25 a sense of community and a new way of living.

Department Director Dave Krabbenhoft says it is all about renewing hope in their daily lives within the prison walls.

“Really focused on changing the culture inside of a prison, bringing humanity, dignity and respect into prison,” Krabbenhoft said.

He said the hope is to also lower the number of inmates returning.

“Recidivism rates, meaning people returning to prison, we hope that that’s got a great effect on people when they return to their communities, that they’ll be better neighbors, which is our vision and mission. Better neighbors for North Dakota, a safer North Dakota,” said Krabbenhoft.

Krabbenhoft said there are 35 mentees and 15 mentors currently in the pods.

KX had the chance to speak with an inmate who DOCR says is a talented mentor.

“I am a father, a brother, a son, a comic, I love to have a good time joking around. I write a lot, poetry, stories, music,” said Benjamin Billups.

Billups is what we could call a Jack of all trades.

He said that since the initiative began, it is no longer CO’s versus inmates.

As a mentor, he is able to work hand in hand with them, becoming a family.

“I’ve done a lot of time, especially in this place and before it was always us against the CO’s, inmates against the CO’s, convict code, if you got a problem, settle it with your hands instead of your words like an adult and now, we’re more focused on self-accountability and working through problems in a non-physical way,” said Billups.

So we asked…how does this initiative make you feel?

“A sense of community, a sense of normalcy, like you can wake up in the morning and some days I forget that I’m even incarcerated ’cause it’s just so normal. Everyday things we have, we are cooking in the back, making fried rice, and fried chicken, and pizza and stuff it feels like home,” Billups said.

He said, “It allows me to give something positive back to a community I helped destroy.”

Once released, Billups says he plans to start a non-profit home for re-offenders to help keep them out of prison.

Billups says in prison, programs end but initiatives stay forever. That is what makes Restoring Promises so special.

“It really is something that I think that could transform the whole prison,” Krabbenhoft said.

Wednesday, the initiative works in Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota and South Carolina, with plans to expand to three more states by 2024.