“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse,” Malachi 4:6, KJV.
The United States is facing both a cultural and a spiritual crisis. Approximately 2.1 million individuals are behind bars in state and federal prisons across the U.S., and many of them are fatherless and/or fathers themselves. Fatherlessness is linked to increased chances of committing a crime and becoming incarcerated, so this reality about the current prison population are not entirely surprising.
But another equally sobering fact regarding crime and incarceration is often forgotten. More than 95% of the prison population will be released back into society, but the majority of them will end up right back where they started — behind bars.
As a society, we must do better — for the good of those incarcerated and for the safety and benefit of all Americans.
Many solutions have been proposed to address this problem, but few of them get at its cultural and spiritual origins. One solution, however, has been proven to work. Faith-based rehabilitation has been successful in inspiring hearts to change, which has consequently reduced or eliminated patterns of criminal behavior.
Faith-based rehabilitation programs equip inmates with the tools to succeed after life in prison so they can return to life as healthy members of society and fully live out the American Dream. One study found that “higher levels of religious involvement” have a myriad of benefits, including “lower levels of drug and alcohol use and abuse, less promiscuous sexual behaviors, reduced likelihood of suicide, lower rates of delinquency among youth, and reduced criminal activity among adults.” Additionally, religious involvement leads to increased levels of “well-being, hope, purpose, meaning in life, and educational attainment.” Participation in religious rehabilitation programs often leads to many of these same results, thereby “increasing the likelihood that a person after release can cope with stresses and strains without the use of crime, drugs or alcohol.”
Faith-based rehabilitation has real effects on recidivism outcomes, too, and these positive outcomes are likely a result of the benefits previously mentioned. One study showed that only 8% of prisoners who participated in InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a faith-based rehabilitation program run by the Nation’s largest prison-serving Christian non-profit, ended up returning to prison, compared to 20% of inmates who chose not to participate in the program. (RELATED: PETER ROFF: Lori Lightfoot Might Come Back To Haunt Chicago)
The Prison Entrepreneurship Fellowship also offers a faith-based correctional rehabilitation program that produced similar results. Its program boasts a 7% recidivism rate for participants over a three-year span, compared to a 24% rate for non-participants. Data from the Minnesota Department of Corrections likewise shows that regular visitation from clergy reduces the recidivism rate by as much as 24%.
But reducing recidivism doesn’t just benefit the formerly incarcerated — it also benefits American society as a whole. A lower rate of recidivism means less crime on our streets, improved public safety, and more American citizens contributing to life as productive members of their communities.
Sadly, approximately 68% of formerly incarcerated individuals in the U.S. were rearrested within three years. According to a Department of Justice study conducted between 2005 and 2014. 83% were rearrested within nine years, which means that approximately 1.65 out of 2.1 million individuals will likely be arrested again within nine years of release. This represents a major failure of our criminal justice system because these people were likely not reformed by this system in any significant way. Our workforce has the potential to be 1.65 million people stronger if we can successfully rehabilitate our inmates and help them find productive jobs.
Unfortunately, as crime continues to surge across the U.S., the issue of high recidivism rates is not going away anytime soon. Thankfully, faith-based rehabilitation programs offer a roadmap to minimize the number of individuals who are released from prison only to end up back in the same place a few years later. The studies confirm what we already know: the integration of faith into one’s life offers a saving grace that guides our words and deeds to lead us to the person God intended us to be. The criminal justice system should embrace the proven faith-based rehabilitation model, and the faith community should do all it can to step up and provide the important guidance and counseling that participants in these programs need. By doing everything possible to share the redemptive power of Christ with our incarcerated brothers and sisters, our society can address this problem and help more Americans stay out of prison once and for all.
Jack Brewer is a former NFL player and currently serves as Chair for the Center for Opportunity Now at the America First Policy Institute.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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