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Intersection of Life and Faith

Faith-Based Prison Program Reduces Odds for Re-arrest

  • 2003 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
Faith-Based Prison Program Reduces Odds for Re-arrest

Former Houston prison inmates are receiving praise from an unlikely source-the White House. The ex-offenders are being recognized for their successful completion of InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a rigorous faith- and values-based prisoner reform program.

 

Bernard Veal, Robert Sutten, and James Peterson-one-time residents of Carol S. Vance Unit in Richmond and now living in Houston, met with President Bush and other key leaders Wednesday for a roundtable to discuss the effectiveness of InnerChange Freedom Initiative and the results of a just-released study on prison recidivism. 

 

The group discussed a study by the University of Pennsylvania that shows graduates of InnerChange Freedom Initiative are overcoming the odds of returning to prison. 

 

"This has been a humbling day for me," said James Peterson, who chose not to take parole in order to finish the program. "In 1995 when I went to prison, I thought my life was over. But the Lord used InnerChange Freedom Initiative to change my life."

 

The study, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and completed earlier this month, shows that graduates of InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a faith- and values-based prisoner reform program, are overcoming the odds of returning to prison.

 

* InnerChange Freedom Initiative graduates were 50 percent less likely to be rearrested. The two-year post-release re-arrest rate among InnerChange Freedom Initiative program graduates in Texas is 17.3 percent compared with 35 percent of the matched comparison group.

 

* InnerChange Freedom Initiative graduates were 60 percent less likely to be re-incarcerated. The two-year post-release reincarceration rate among InnerChange Freedom Initiative program graduates in Texas is 8 percent compared with 20.3 percent of the matched comparison group.

 

The revolutionary InnerChange Freedom Initiative prison program was introduced in a prison outside of Houston in 1997 by then Gov. George W. Bush. It has since been enacted in four states and touted as a model of the President's faith-based initiatives.

In a meeting at the White House June 19, Chuck Colson, founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries thanked President Bush for his courage to take a chance with the faith-based program while governor of Texas.

 

"Faith-based initiatives are about transforming lives," said Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. "This study indicates early signs of making headway toward reducing recidivism. All of society benefits when prison inmates are transformed."

 

"Graduates of the program do have lower re-arrest and re-incarceration rates," said Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship, the world's largest prison outreach organization, which operates InnerChange Freedom Initiative. "This is great news for America's communities."

 

Innerchange Freedom Initiative Details: Living in a separate prison unit, participants follow a curriculum of faith-based teaching, along with work and basic educational study, for 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for up to 18 months. The post-prison portion of the program continues for a minimum of six months after a participant is released from prison, with guidance from a mentor and support from a local church.

 

A key component of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative program is community participation. Volunteers direct much of the activity and serve as mentors to participants while in prison and after their release.

 

Since the Texas InnerChange Freedom Initiative program opened in 1997, three similar prison units have opened in Kansas (1999), Iowa (1999), and Minnesota (2002). InnerChange Freedom Initiative is operated by Prison Fellowship, which is at work in all 50 states and 95 countries.

 

Photo Caption: InnerChange Freedom Initiative graduates, along with Chuck Colson and Mark Earley met with the President and Jim Towey June 18, 2003 to discuss the success of the program.