It’s “boring” to work in prison units where faith-based programs thrive.
According to Justice Fellowship Policy Analyst Jesse Wiese, who served a sentence in an Iowa prison, corrections officers often complained that it was boring to be in a prison unit filled with men and women who were involved in religious programs that taught morality—because there wasn’t much discipline to enforce.
Instead of breaking up fights or confiscating makeshift weapons, officers in these units were faced with addressing infractions of a less exciting nature: a pile of laundry that failed to be picked up in a timely manner, for example.
One such program, Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative, supported Wiese’s faith in Christ; it’s the reason he is where he is today, and it’s the reason he testified before the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections on March 11.
“Through some providential relationships and participating in a faith-based program, I began to find purpose, value, and hope and quickly realized that … crime harms people, breaks relationships, and has lifelong consequences. I deeply regretted my actions and looked forward to satisfying the debt that I owed,” Wiese told the task force.
That is what many faith-based programs provide—a moral incentive to change the way individuals think and act. But even more importantly, according to Wiese, these programs create a culture inside prison walls that “provides opportunities for people to practice good citizenship within a community context.”
Building a constructive culture in prisons this is one of the key components of Justice Fellowship’s restorative justice framework. Responsible parties who are serving their sentences under the law should experience a positive prison culture that mimics the positive culture of society outside the walls. Restorative justice places the responsibility to create this constructive culture on our corrections system and officials.
Our prisons need to sustain environments that teach incarcerated men and women how to become good citizens, rather than training them to be better prisoners. Allowing faith based-programs to thrive is the best way to create constructive cultures inside our prisons.
The Colson Task Force is responsible for examining the federal corrections system and then developing policy recommendations to improve it. Wiese urged task force members to include the promotion of faith-based programs as part of their response to Congress, the Department of Justice, and the President.
“Earning back the public’s trust after committing a crime should not be an easy task, but it must be a realistic and attainable one if we want to increase public safety and maximize the human potential locked within our prisons and jails,” Wiese explained.