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Q: Faith-Based Programs for Prison Inmates ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Faith-Based Programs for Prison Inmates
Category: Relationships and Society > Government
Asked by: nronronronro-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 28 Dec 2003 01:14 PST
Expires: 27 Jan 2004 01:14 PST
Question ID: 290828
Hi There !

This month's issue of "Mother Jones" magazine
discusses a new faith-based prison initiative
called InnerChange.   This is run by Prison Fellowship

This particular article is about the program as
implemented by Pastor Don Raymond and Warden
Ray Roberts in the Kansas State Prison System
(specifically, the medium-security prison in
Ellsworth, Kansas).

The author of the article makes contradictory
claims.  It is unclear from the article
whether these programs work or not (i.e., lower recidivism, 
better prepare inmates for parole, decrease antisocial
behaviors in prison, etc.).

This is frustrating given that efficacy studies have
apparently been performed.  The author of the article even mentions
such a study by the University of Pennsylvania, though she 
inexplicably does not mention the professors' conclusions.

A 5-star answer would mention 2-3 academic studies
showing whether such "religious" programs behind
bars work or not.  

All comments greatly appreciated !
Subject: Re: Faith-Based Programs for Prison Inmates
Answered By: mwalcoff-ga on 28 Dec 2003 07:02 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Here are the results of a few studies on religious programs in prisons
and recidivism:

-- Byron R. Johnson of the University of Pennsylvania compared two
prisons in Brazil, one operated by a religious group and one operated
by a nonprofit organization on secular principles. Johnson found the
religious prison had recidivism rates significantly lower than the
secular prison.

Source: Johnson, "Assessing the Impact of Religious Programs and
Prison Industry on Recidivism: An Exploratory Study," Texas Journal of
Corrections, Feb. 2002,
This article also ran in Crime and Justice International, 2002.

-- In 1997, Johnson, with David B. Larson of Duke University and
Timothy C. Pitts of Morehead State University, released a study on the
Prison Fellowship program in New York state. The authors found
prisoners who took an active part in the religious program had lower
rates of recidivism than people who did not take any part in the
program. However, prisoners who were less active in the program fared
no better than people who did not enroll at all.

Source: Johnson, Larson and Pitts, "Religious Programs, Institutional
Adjustment, and Recidivism among Former Inmates in Prison Fellowship
Programs," JUSTICE QUARTERLY, Vol. 14 No. 1, March 1997,

-- For a 2000 article, Todd R. Clear et al. said previous studies on
the relationship between religious programs and recidivism do not give
a clear answer one way or the other.

Source: Clear, et al., "The Value of Religion in Prison: An Inmate
Perspective," Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 14.1, 2000,

Clear et al. cite the following sources:

Ames, D. B., Gartner, J., & O?Connor, T. (1990, August). Participation
in a volunteerprison ministry program and recidivism. Paper presented
at the Meeting of theAmerican Psychological Association, Boston.

Clear, T. R., Stout, B. D., Dammer, H. R., Kelly, L., Hardyman, P. L.,
& Shapiro, C.(1992). Religion in prison: Final report. Newark, NJ:
School of Criminal Justice,Rutgers University.

Young, M., Gartner, J., O?Connor, T., Larson, D., & Wright, K. (1995).
The impact ofa volunteer prison ministry program on the long-term
recidivism of federalinmates. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 22,

I hope this answer meets your needs. If not, please request clarification.



Search strategy:
I did a search on, a search engine for academic journals.
When I found articles that looked interesting, I typed the title into
Google to see if they were available freely on the web, thus:

The Value of Religion in Prison: An Inmate Perspective

Religious Programs and Prison: An Exploratory Study
nronronronro-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Terrific answer!  Succinct and comprehensive.
Thanks a million !


P.S.  Thanks, too, for mentioning
I was not familiar with it.
I sometimes use for academic articles,
but ingenta was clearly the superior source on this issue.  rf

Subject: Re: Faith-Based Programs for Prison Inmates
From: hlabadie-ga on 28 Dec 2003 05:16 PST
Lawtey state prison in Florida has been dedicated as the first
"faith-based" prison in the US.,1651,TCP_1021_2530623,00.html

Subject: Re: Faith-Based Programs for Prison Inmates
From: mathtalk-ga on 28 Dec 2003 08:56 PST
Hi, nronronronro-ga:

I'd read not long ago something relevant to one aspect of mwalcoff-ga's Answer.

A Slate article, here:

[Faith-based Fudging]

critiques the first study cited by mwalcoff-ga, in which University of
Pennsylvania's Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society
makes certain efficacy claims for the InnerChange Freedom Initiative
(IFI) prison program in Texas:

[The InnerChange Freedom Initiative - Carol Vance Unit]

The criticism is that it compares outcomes (recidivism rates) between
"graduates" of the program and a "matched comparison group," which
means that a selection effect (eliminating those who participated in
the program but failed to "graduate") cannot be discounted.  In fact,
Slate's Mark A.R. Kleiman says, if the results for those who
participated but did not graduate are included, the comparison becomes
slightly unfavorable (24% recidivism vs. 20% for the "control").

In other words, if "graduation" from the faith-based program is to be
the basis of comparison, graduation from a secular program of matching
difficulty should have been the other side of the comparison.

According to a news release by Prison Fellowship, the organization
which manages the IFI program in Texax, similar programs have
subsequently been founded in "Kansas (1999), Iowa (1999), and
Minnesota (2002)":

[Graduates of Faith-Based Prison Program Less Likely to Return to Prison]

which illustrates some of the widespread circulation that was given to
a positive appraisal of that study.

Unfortunately the Slate article's link to the Univ. of Pennsylvania
study seems to have "broken", but I was able to find a "live" copy of
the original study here:

[InnerChange Freedom Initiative Study - Univ. of Penn. CRRUCS]

Naturally the fact that one third-party study affirming the benefit of
faith-based prison programs (esp. one whose title contains the word
"preliminary") is open to criticism does not prove there is not a
benefit to such programs.  The dearth of such studies, however, may
tell us something about the potential conflict between requirements of
faith and of scholarship.

regards, mathtalk-ga
Subject: Re: Faith-Based Programs for Prison Inmates
From: nronronronro-ga on 28 Dec 2003 14:02 PST

Thanks for the great article.

Interesting that the empty beds were
immediately filled with new volunteers.

I hope it actually works.

Thanks again.
Subject: Re: Faith-Based Programs for Prison Inmates
From: nronronronro-ga on 28 Dec 2003 14:07 PST

Your comments hold great wisdom.

Seems to me, there are really three unfolding stories here:
(1) whether these programs work
(2) potential "slant" by academics in benchmarking these programs
(3) separation of church and state

What an interesting topic!

Thanks again.

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