AP: Faith-Based Prison Programs Flourish

My first reaction to this story is to remember that we are all new creatures in Christ for those that have accepted Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Can I hear an “Amen”?

This from Associated Press:

Faith-Based Prison Programs Flourish

By DAVID CRARY

RICHMOND, Texas  — Killer-turned-artist Manny Hernandez on the prison where he’s finishing an eight-year term: “It’s a blessing to be here.”

Fellow murderer and inmate Raymond Hall likens it to heaven.

“I love this place,” says their warden, Cynthia Tilley. “It’s so calm.”

They’re praising the Carol Vance Unit, founded in 1997 on the outskirts of Houston. It’s the oldest of a rapidly growing number of faith-based prison facilities across the nation.

Even as they proliferate, fueled by the fervor of devout volunteers, these programs are often criticized. Evidence that they reduce recidivism is inconclusive, and skeptics question whether the prevailing evangelical tone of the units discriminates against inmates who don’t share their conservative Christian outlook.

However, 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.

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