Saturday, October 20, 2007

What works - faith-based prisons

Prisons house people and train them to be criminals. The typical US prison does little to make its wards less likely to return. The changes needed are internal - values, respect for life and law. The US prisons have no way to transfer these values. I don't think they even recognize their value. A bold experiment began about ten years ago. Prison Fellowship, run by Chuck Colson, ask Texas to let them run a section of a prison where they would teach Christian values. PF provided the instruction; Texas provided the housing and feeding of the prisoners. I thought this was killed off by a judge is some sort of law suit. But it has expanded to a dozen now. And their results are far, far better than the establishment. Fox News has it:
... Evidence is strong that violence and trouble-making drop sharply in these programs, and they often are the only vibrant rehabilitation option at a time when taxpayer-funded alternatives have been cut back. Inmates at Vance offer another compelling argument. Unlike many of America's 2 million prisoners, they feel they are treated with respect. They have hope. "A bunch of cats in prison, they never had anyone show them love — even their mother and father," said Anzetta Smith, who served 18 years for attempted murder before graduating from Vance this year. "You get in the program, and everybody shows you love." Impressed by the Vance operation, Texas officials have opened a dozen faith-based dorms elsewhere in the state, accommodating some 1,300 inmates. At one dorm, at the maximum-security Allred prison near Wichita Falls, infractions by the inmates dropped more than 90 percent once they entered the program. At Vance, a minimum-security prison, fights among inmates are rare, said Tommie Dorsett, a former parole officer who has directed the unit's Christian-based InnerChange Freedom Initiative since its inception.

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