This documentary film seeks to answer the question — do Prison ministries reduce the recidivism rate of convicts who have been released? There are snippets of interviews with the late Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries juxtaposed with comments by Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans for the Separation of Church and State.
Lynn, a UCC pastor, criticized statistics cited by Colson and others claiming that religious ministries were helpful in deterring released convicts from a return to criminal behavior. He did not, however, explain in any detail what was lacking in the studies — he simply claimed that statistics had been “manipulated.” Colson admitted that while recidivism rates were initially lowered, after ten years most inmates had relapsed. This indicates a need for continuing follow-up by churches with ministering to them.
Lynn also intimated that prison systems were turning to religious ministries as a “free” substitute for educational and vocational training which was more important in helping those released adapt to life outside the prison.
Most interesting to me were scenes from a retreat called, R. E. C. (Residents Encounter Christ), which took place in a Louisiana prison. The three-day retreat was obviously based on the Cursillo method used by Catholics, Lutherans (Via de Cristo), Methodists (Walk to Emmaus) and other denominations. There were talks, table discussions, letters from Sunday School students to the inmates, and other similarities.
VERDICT: 3 STARS. This is a topic which really couldn’t be covered in one hour.
For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see these posts:
The Importance of a Team Member