Free to change

The Penitent Thief, a new JP community partner, helps returning citizens progress from prison to freedom and purpose. Founder Paul Del Favero graduated from LifeWorks in 2011 after he left prison. He has helped returning citizens ever since, first in his spare time and now through the ministry. LifeWorks is a favorite tool to share with “the guys.”

“Our approach is to meet people where they are,” Paul says. “We start working with the guys behind the gate — before they’re released. I tell them my story, I tell them what to expect, and first and foremost I tell them what God’s done in my life.”

As a teenager, Paul struggled with substance abuse. He stole to support his addiction and spent 18 years in prison for grand theft. That’s where he encountered Christ. After release, Paul attended First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, where he learned about JP. He graduated, found a job and built a career. In 2022, he left his job, founded The Penitent Thief — and got married.

Stacy Del Favero says The Penitent Thief is a joint effort: “Paul and I share the same heart for wanting these guys to succeed. It’s personal for us. We really want to be there for them and help them through the transition from prison.”

The process starts with a 12-week class that Paul modeled in part on LifeWorks and currently leads at three prisons. Participants range from rival gang members to Muslim, Hebrew Israelite and Christian inmates. When they are released, Paul connects the guys with work, transitional housing and a bicycle. The ministry opened a “family house” for men in October. 8 men currently live there, meeting with Paul, working, participating in LifeWorks and other programs, and volunteering in the community.

Johnny, The Penitent Thief’s first LifeWorks grad, landed a full-time job with Aggressive Appliances at the spring 2023 Career and Interview Fair.

“When things go south and you make bad decisions that land you in jail, the deck is really stacked against you when you get out,” JP president and CEO Marc Stanakis says. “Paul has decided he wants to reach back and help others find their way out of that.”

Marc adds, “I love the fact that Paul finally found his good thing – Stacy. Together they’re unstoppable!”


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