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Rehabilitation Programs Division

Volunteer Services Program

2014 Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Awards

McKinney Couple Receives Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award

Photo of Award Winner(s) From left to right: Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Oliver Bell, Shari Buie, Michael Buie, Keynote Speaker Judge Cathy Cochran and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston.

(Austin) – Shari & Michael Buie were presented the “Most Innovative Program” Award during the Governor’s 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award program today.

The award was presented by Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Oliver Bell, and TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston today during a ceremony held in Austin. The Buies are two of the 15 individuals and 6 organizations from across the state recognized for their efforts to help inmates and those who are on parole or probation.

“These men and women give their time not for monetary reward,” said Livingston. “They volunteer because they have a personal passion in seeing others succeed. We are grateful for their selfless dedication.”

The Buies developed a new program called “Possum Talks” which focuses on the struggles of being an incarcerated parent.  The name is derived from the way many incarcerated men become defensive when people reach out to them, similar to what possums do when approached.

During a two-day workshop, offenders are given the tools and principles needed to keep their relationships intact with their children while incarcerated. The program uses an extensive follow-up process to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. And when offenders have completed the program there is a graduation ceremony.

“Possum Talks” has been successful in the Travis State Jail and the Eastham Unit and is now available to offenders at the Huntsville Unit.

The Buies have been residents of McKinney for seven years and have two children and four granddaughters with whom they enjoy spending their spare time.

The Buies are one of thousands of concerned volunteers who, like them, donate many hours of their personal time every year with the goal of changing the lives of convicted offenders, and aiding and comforting their victims. Annually, some 21,000 volunteers make 145,000 visits to criminal justice facilities and work with offenders who are on supervision, donating some 460,000 hours of service.

Note to media: For more information, contact Jason Clark at jason.clark@tdcj.texas.gov – Photos of award recipients will be available on the TDCJ Web site at http://www.tdcj.texas.gov. For high resolution photos, please contact Jene Andersen at jene.andersen@tdcj.texas.gov.