Fourth Purpose Foundation

Make Prison a place of Transformation 

Our Purpose

Almost two million people are incarcerated in the United States, and 95% of everyone who is serving a sentence is getting out at some point. These returning citizens come home to our communities as our new neighbors. To give them the best chance at success, our mission is to make prison a place of transformation.  

Inmate Resources

In prisons, we provide inmates with inspiring programming, relationships, and resources they need so they can live with meaning and purpose while re-entering society.

Staff Resources

We are also deeply committed to the corrections workforce. We provide thought-provoking innovative tools and training that is designed to help staff perform their duties in ways that lead to a healthier workplace culture, and better staff and inmate outcomes.

Community Resources

We engage the community in the true mission of corrections: To enhance public safety and prevent any future crimes. We partner with businesses, educators, faith-based organizations, and social service providers to increase private sector participation.

Our Team

Josh Smith

Josh Smith


In just over a decade and a half, Josh Smith built a small service company into a $30 million enterprise with more than 180 employees. But for a 5-year period before that, he was incarcerated in a federal prison camp in Kentucky for his involvement in marijuana and cocaine trafficking...Smith grew up in a single-mother household, lived in government housing, was removed from his home at age 11 due to abuse and was convicted of 10 felonies by the time he was 16. He entered prison at age 21 as an 11th-grade dropout with no plans to exit it any differently than how he entered. Instead, he found redemption through God and was guided by several highly educated white-collar criminals who he was able to learn from. But all the books he read, studying he did and plans he made didn’t alter the reality of the world he was released into, one where ex-convicts are still punished by an onerous set of legal restrictions. Upon his release, the government housing his wife lived in was no longer available to them because of his status as a felon. He had to beg for his first job making $6 per hour. Since exiting prison, Smith has spent the past 15 years actively involved in criminal justice reform in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and countries in Central America. Smith has supported programs that provide hope, training and reentry support for prisoners and their families who earnestly want a new life, including hiring and mentoring many felons. In June of 2019 he was named to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force. He and his wife of 23 years, Tracy, are now driven to reshape the reality for offenders, from the time they enter prison through their re-entry.

Tony Parker

Tony Parker


As the President of the Foundation, Mr. Parker provides guidance and leadership on national initiatives as well as work in support of corrections and the criminal justice system in Tennessee. Mr. Parker has more than 38 years’ experience in the field of corrections... He began his career as a Correctional Officer and rose through the ranks to Warden, Assistant Commissioner, and finally Commissioner. Mr. Parker was first appointed Commissioner in June of 2016 by former Governor Bill Haslam and was reappointed in January 2019 by Governor Bill Lee. Parker also currently serves as the President of the American Correctional Association (ACA). Mr. Parker earned an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Dyersburg State Community College, a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Tennessee at Martin and a Master of Arts degree in Security Studies with an emphasis in Homeland Security from the prestigious Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California. Parker resides in Union City, TN with his wife Misty and their three children, Madison, Mia and J’Coy.



Social Media

Be in the Know

The Fourth Purpose

From rehabilitation to transformation

The prison system typically has four purposes. The biggest problem is that the fourth purpose—rehabilitation— does not prepare people to leave. That requires transformation. Transforming America’s prisoners requires transforming the way America thinks about prison and its overarching purpose.


This is how the system retaliates against the offender for causing injury to someone else. Serving time is a leading form of retribution, a way for a person to pay for the harm they inflicted on a victim, as they should. But our criminal justice system is shortsighted. Our society is only acknowledging the first victim. 83% of state prisoners released in 2005 were rearrested within nine years, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Report. Those arrests make for a second wave of victims, then a third. Focusing just on retribution for the victim is too narrow. Our criminal justice system needs to also transform the prisoner so that the first victim is the last victim.


This is the idea that by physically removing someone from society, we are able to prevent them from committing future crimes because they are locked up or restrained. Studies have found incarceration achieves this objective, but most people can only be removed from society for so long. That is why we should focus on how a prisoner can improve themselves while behind bars. Most of them will not stay there forever. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, all but 5% of those behind bars will eventually be released[2] and become our neighbors once more. We need to adopt a “them is us” attitude.


This is the idea that the threat of punishment will keep people from committing crimes, and that those who have committed crimes will be discouraged from reoffending after experiencing punishment. The problem is, our criminal justice system is simply not as effective as it should be. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 503,600 people were incarcerated in prisons in 1980. In 2016 that number had grown to over 2.3 million. We need to provide direction, not just deterrence.


We prefer this over "rehabilitation." Many criminal justice reform efforts talk about rehabilitation, but it is not a word you’ll find us using. Rehabilitate means "to return something to its original state." We don’t want prisoners to return to their original, crime-committing state; we want to prepare men and women in whatever ways they weren’t prepared before. The guiding principle is that they need to leave better than how they came. We can do that by giving them purpose and providing them with life and job skills during their incarceration. Victims’ families suffer, but there are other victims who are often overlooked: the families of the prisoners. We seek to nurture all families during this time and prepare prisoners for all facets of reentry.

Get Connected


We would love to meet you.

Contact Us


P.O. Box 2372