« "Shepherds lead, but flocks diverge on morality of death penalty" | Main | "Do the crime, pay more than time" »

March 18, 2011

Swift answer to my blog prayers seeking information on faith-based prisons

Yesterday I asked this post "What is the current status and latest research on faith-based prisons?". Today, thanks to Professor Sasha Volokh my blog prayers have been answer via this article available now on SSRN titled "Everything We Know About Faith-Based Prisons."  Here is the headline of today's must read:

This Article examines everything we know about the effectiveness of faith-based prisons, which is not very much.

Most studies can’t be taken seriously, because they’re tainted by the “self-selection problem.”  It’s hard to determine the effect of faith-based prison programs, because they’re voluntary, and volunteers are more likely to be motivated to change and are therefore already less likely to commit infractions or be re-arrested.  This problem is the same one that education researchers have struggled with in determining whether private schools are better than public schools.

The only credible studies done so far compare participants with non-participants who volunteered for the program but were rejected.  Some studies in this category find no effect, but some do find a modest effect.  But even those that find an effect are subject to additional critiques: for instance, participants may have benefited from being exposed to treatment resources that non-participants were denied.

Thus, based on current research, there’s no strong reason to believe that faith-based prisons work.  However, there’s also no strong reason to believe that they don’t work.  I conclude with thoughts on how faith-based prison programs might be improved, and offer a strategy that would allow such experimentation to proceed consistent with the Constitution.

March 18, 2011 at 09:21 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Swift answer to my blog prayers seeking information on faith-based prisons:


I can speak from experience that the effect of participating in a Faith-based dorm at Lockhart Women's prison in Texas was life changing. I have an on-going blog that talks about my case which is currently in the habeas process and talks about the impact the Faith based dorm had on me. Until somebody experiences it (either as a volunteer or as a prisoner) I am not certain how they can sit on the outside and judge its effectiveness. It is true, everybody was there on a voluntary basis, in fact even went through a screening process; but there were many reasons why these women asked to be in the program...for example: a safer environment, a way to get out of work, wanting to be with their friends (or girlfriend), a way to pass the time faster....you can't assume every person in the program was God-inspired. But I will tell you it changed the lives of many who had other agendas. My blog speaks specifically of the Faith dorm in the post called "A Light in the Darkness" http://alllthingsworktogetherforgood.blogspot.com

Does it prevent recidivism? I have been told repeatedly that it has been proven that those who find God in prison are less likely to return. Where are those statistics...I couldn't tell you. What I do know about the Faith based program I attended, there was much more going on than just Bible study, there was a strict structure provided, accountability for the lessons and a rigorous study program, only TV was the evening news, etc. So what was being taught was a new lifestyle, new life skills and extreme positive reinforcement, respect going both directions (which is just not prevalent otherwise in the prison system).

In conclusion, it seems if one was studying the effectiveness of such programs, they would need to look at variables beyond who volunteers/who doesn't....that is a bit too shallow compared to the actual dynamics occurring.

Posted by: Audrey | Mar 21, 2011 1:57:57 AM

I like what you have said,it is really helpful to me,thanks!

Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 7:56:13 AM

Great article, I really learned a lot about faith based prisons because of it. Thanks for the link.

Posted by: DWI Attorney Albany | Aug 19, 2011 5:41:10 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB