Controversial prison program shows success 16 Feb 12

A controversial program designed to help keep inmates from re-offending is seeing results in two Minnesota prisons.

According to a report from the Department of Corrections, inmates involved in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative have reduced their chances of returning to prison by as much as 40 percent.

The initiative is a Christian-based program that operates in the Minnesota women’s prison in Shakopee and the men’s prison in Lino Lakes. Each prison has a specific area where InnerChange inmates live together, eat together and pray together. The programs have a combined 200 inmates who take daily classes based on Christian principles.

Some critics of the program, including Kristine Holmgren, who was the chaplain at the women’s prison when the program arrived, say it creates a separate class of inmates who receive special benefits.

“I already had women coming into my office and begging to get into this program because they already knew that they were going to have resources that were not available to the rest of the women in the facility,” Holmgren told Minnesota Public Radio News.

InnerChange accepts almost everyone who applies regardless of religion, according to Jim Liske, CEO of Virginia based-Prison Fellowship—the parent organization for the InnerChange Freedom Initiative.

David Crist, Deputy Commission of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, told MPR News there is no cost to Minnesota taxpayers.

“Yet it does reduce recidivism,” Crist said. “And when offenders are not out there committing new crimes, the public is [safer]. That’s a very practical reason for working with IFI.”