Most offenders have a values base that is inconsistent with what it takes to adjust in society. It is imperative that we continue to provide faith-based and character based programs to off set these deficits. Faith-based programs can help an offender prepare for a successful reentry into the community by establishing a spiritual foundation from which he can make sound, moral decisions. Developing partnerships with faith-based institutions that can help ex-offenders maintain their good intentions and positive efforts are crucial to the success of reentry.
Results of a three-year study by the Department indicated that when offenders are involved in an effective prison ministry, the percentage of those rearrested drops dramatically from 41% to 14%. According to an article in the Justice Quarterly (March 1997) entitled “Religious Programs, Institutional Adjustment and Recidivism Among Fellowship Programs,” a study by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences found that if a person attended ten or more Bible studies during his incarceration, he is 67% less likely to return to prison than those who did not.
Chaplains working with the hundreds of volunteers comprise the heart of religious programming, available daily to offenders in all institutions.
Trinity Broadcasting Network’s (TBN) Second Chance is a faith-based initiative designed to give hope to offenders across America, encouraging them to make good choices by providing positive, life-affirming television programming around the clock. The programming is fully funded by TBN, the largest faith-based network in the world. Initially launched in 2007 at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, TBN’s Second Chance programming is now available in all seven state correctional facilities.
Additionally, faith and character-based dormitory (FCBD) programs have been established at Dixon Correctional Institute, Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women and Rayburn Correctional Center. The faith and character-based programs are aimed at maximizing the powers of: personal faith or a positive belief system, positive peer pressure, and positive role model through mentoring.
Unique in the nation is the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s “Angola Campus” at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The seminary, established in 1995, offers two college-level degree programs for the offender population; a two-year associate degree in Pastoral Ministries and a four-year bachelor’s degree in Theology. As many of Angola’s offenders are serving life sentences, the Department sees their role in the reentry process as mentors – helping other offenders’ transition back into the community. Some offenders who have earned their bachelor’s degree are being transferred to other institutions, where they work under the supervision of the chaplain to strengthen religious programming. Approximately 90 offenders are consistently enrolled in the seminary, which offers one of the most unique educational opportunities for state offenders and has proven to be a life-changing experience.