On October 24, 1999, Gene and Carol Kent's only child, Jason P. Kent, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. An Annapolis Naval Academy graduate with an exemplary record, and a source of pride and joy to his parents, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Carol Kent shares their story in her book, When I Lay My Isaac Down. "It's discovering that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy as we engage ourselves in understanding the upside-down nature of the cross. By sharing my story, I can give people the opportunity to find hope, and it's a helpful way for me to process my own grief." Her follow up book, A New Kind of Normal, helps readers to make hope-filled choices in the middle of lives that are much more challenging than the dream they once had for their future.
During this painful writing period, Carol and Gene prayerfully decided to establish a non-profit organization to positively impact inmates and their families. Carol shares, "While God would never condone what my son did, His mercy and grace abound. Our eyes are open to a whole new world--the prison system. We now see needs we weren't aware of before, and doors are opening to help some of the neediest people in our society.
There are about 2,000 prisons in the United States and over two million inmates. According to the Kents, the primary goal of Speak Up for Hope is to provide hope to inmates and their families through encouragement, education, and counseling.
"No one organization can possibly meet all the needs of prisoners and their families," continues Carol. "Speak Up for Hope will address prisoner family needs in a way that will compliment existing non-profit organizations."
The Kents are determined to face the future with hope, joy and faith. Carol says, "God can take a situation like ours and redeem it for His purposes. Our vision is to help inmates and their families adjust to their new normal."