The InnerChange Freedom Initiative® (IFI) is a privately funded program that provides educational, values-based services to prisoners on a voluntary and noncompulsory basis to help prepare them to re-enter the workplace, religious and community life, and family and social relationships. The program is based on values reflected in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ but is open to inmates of all faiths or no faith. Living in the same housing unit, inmate participants are taught values and life skills for up to 18 months while in prison. Participants then receive guidance from a mentor and support from a local faith community for 12 months after they are released from prison.
The InnerChange Freedom Initiative was first launched in a Texas prison in 1997. Currently, there are programs operating in Minnesota (2002) and Texas, including a women's unit in Minnesota (2006).
The InnerChange Freedom Initiative is designed to assist inmates who are seeking lifelong change and a new value system. As the result of a spiritual or moral transformation and the development of life skills needed for successful re-entry into their families and communities, inmates who complete the program leave prison better prepared to become productive citizens. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 66 percent of inmates in the United States are re-arrested and more than half are re-incarcerated within three years of release.
In 2003, the Texas Policy Council released a study of recidivism in the state and found that of the inmates who completed all phases of The InnerChange Freedom Initiative program, only eight percent returned to prison within two years, compared with a 20 percent return rate for inmates who were eligible for the program but did not participate. In other words, InnerChange Freedom Initiative graduates were 60 percent less likely to be re-incarcerated.
In addition, a follow-up study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania validated the above conclusion and also reported that only 18 percent of InnerChange Freedom Initiative graduates—those who completed both the in-prison and post-prison components of the program—were re-arrested, compared with a 35 percent re-arrest rate from the matched comparison group. Thus, InnerChange Freedom Initiative graduates were 50 percent less likely to be re-arrested than the comparison group.
(Source: Texas Policy Council Study on the Texas InnerChange Freedom Initiative, January 2003, and The InnerChange Freedom Initiative: A Preliminary Evaluation of a Faith-Based Prison Program, by Dr. Byron R. Johnson with David B. Larson, June 2003)
These research results are consistent with the general body of evidence-based research in corrections that defines characteristics of successful programs that seek individual change.
There are additional studies from Minnesota and Iowa that support the effectiveness of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative.
These results demonstrate that a majority of the hundreds of inmates released after completing the InnerChange Freedom Initiative program each year successfully break the cycle of crime and become productive, law-abiding citizens, resulting in safer communities.