How Prisoners Are Finding Freedom
The rate of violent crime in America continues to decline, but the number of criminals serving time behind bars is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 2 million people were in prisons and jails in 2002, compared to just over 500,000 in 1980. A study conducted nationally showed that in 1994, 67% of those released from prison would return within three years for a new crime!
In the midst of this alarming trend, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is paving the way towards a more effective solution. “We have always had chaplains and counselors at our facilities and have seen the positive effect that spiritual counseling can have on an inmate’s life,” said Jim Seaton, CCA Chief Operating Officer. “As CCA continues to evolve and enhance our broad faith-based programming, we approached IBLP to assist us in creating a prototype because they have expertise in faith-based programming.”
CCA’s Faith-Based Program Prototype
Spearheading the project’s joint development are John Lanz, CCA Director of Industry and Special Programs and Chaplain Bob Holyfield, Director of IBLP Prison Ministries. John says, “When I became acquainted with IBLP and the resources they offer a couple of years ago, I immediately recognized the value this training would have in the lives of inmates.
“I am delighted that the management of CCA has chosen to increase our corporate emphasis on faith-based programming and has given me the opportunity to work in conjunction with IBLP to develop a standardized, residential program model that we can incorporate in all of our facilities nationwide.”
In March 2004, eight CCA locations implemented the voluntary program. Ten more prisons are planning to start in May, with the eventual expansion to CCA’s remaining 46 facilities expected in the near future. CCA is the largest operator of privatized correctional institutions in the United States and expects an estimated 1,000 inmates to complete the four- to six-month rehabilitation program by the end of 2004. Results will be documented over the next several years to gauge the true effectiveness of the program in reducing negative behavioral incidents, changing the way inmates think, and recidivism.
The program components include IBLP’s Basic, Advanced, and Anger Resolution Seminars, daily Scripture memory and Bible study, Basic Seminar Follow-Up Course, Commands of Christ, Financial Freedom Seminar, character development, personal testimonies and interaction, and testing. Participants in this voluntary program are assigned to a designated unit to further facilitate their progress.
Unprecedented Decline in Recidivism
Under the leadership of Chaplain Bob Holyfield, correctional facilities in Arkansas have been using IBLP seminars and other materials since 1996. This work has received the commendations of Governor Mike Huckabee and numerous wardens as they have witnessed the remarkable results in the lives of inmates.
An example of this transformation can be seen in the McPherson Unit in Newport, Arkansas. Out of 659 women who have completed the voluntary program since 1998, only 125 have returned to prison, making the overall recidivism rate through 2003 only 19%. The Arkansas state average is estimated to be 32–50%.
The reason behind these results in the inmates’ lives is “a daily diet of God’s Word,” says Chaplain Holyfield.
What Makes Faith-Based Rehabilitation Effective?
“I strongly believe that a comprehensive approach to inmate rehabilitation that includes quality religious programs and services gives inmates hope as well as the skills necessary for reentering society as productive, responsible citizens.”—Dennis Bradby, CCA Vice-President of Inmate Programs
Kirk Hartstrom, who works with the IBLP Prison Ministry says, “I feel this program is effective because the focus is on applying God’s Word to everyday life situations. Inmates not only learn knowledge about God, but how to live like a Christian on a day-to-day basis. It is really a discipleship program where chaplains and volunteers can invest in the lives of inmates who want to change.”
The power of God’s Word to effect change in a person’s life is real. Helping individuals understand and apply the truths of Scripture is the only way for lives to be truly transformed.
“I expect we will see a significant impact, not only on the inmates themselves, but also on their spouses and children, correctional facility staff, and ultimately a reduction in crime.”—John Lanz, CCA Director of Industry and Special Programs
If you would like to learn more about this program or see a similar program implemented in your local prison, e-mail the IBLP Prison Ministry at [email protected], or call 501-374-1020.
Find out more about the IBLP Prison Ministry.