A University of Pennsylvania study, promoted at a White House roundtable discussion yesterday, gives high marks to Prison Fellowship's InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Texas.
According to the PF-funded study, only 8 percent of inmates who complete the full 22-month program of immersion in Christian relationships and education returned to prison within two years of their release. A comparison group had a 20 percent recidivism rate.
Criminologist Byron Johnson directed the six-year study. "The results are incredibly positive," Johnson told CT. "It means that governments could save billions of dollars in prison costs."
However, the study notes that InnerChange—like many inmate rehab programs—experiences a high dropout rate: over 50 percent.
InnerChange came to Texas in 1997. PF also operates it in Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.
The program receives some state funds for its nonreligious elements. In February, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed two federal lawsuits against the Iowa program (CT, April, p. 33). AU says InnerChange unconstitutionally indoctrinates participants in religion.
Mark Earley, PF's president, says the program is purely voluntary and thus permissible.
John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute told CT, "If an adverse ruling was sustained by the Supreme Court, it would stop Bush's faith-based initiative dead in its tracks."
Media coverage of the study and yesterday's White House meeting includes:
Convicted Watergate figure, Bush meet | Colson praised Bush for allowing InnerChange Freedom Initiative to start (Associated Press)
Shutting the revolving door | A new study released this week shows that Prison Fellowship's InnerChange Freedom Initiative is making a big difference. ...1