PRISON FELLOWSHIP ACADEMY
Prison Fellowship Academy Builds Good Citizens and Brighter Futures Behind Bars
The Prison Fellowship Academy® is rooted in the belief that no life is beyond Jesus’ power to restore. Drawing on Prison Fellowship®’s insights from 43 years of ministry, the Academy takes participants on a year-long journey of Gospel-centered, holistic transformation with our staff and volunteers as their guides. Prison Fellowship partners with Celebrate Recovery, a proven program for dealing with life’s “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” from a Christian perspective, to help participants overcome the roots of addictions and criminal behaviors. Through Alpha, participants also have an opportunity to explore the basics of the Christian faith in a welcoming environment. Other evidence-based methods and in-depth curricula make the Academy uniquely impactful. In fiscal year 2019, the Academy spread to new facilities, and existing sites celebrated the success of their graduates.
In November 2018, the first-ever graduates of the Academy in Virginia walked across a stage to be honored for successfully completing the rigorous program. Seventy-five friends and family members, correctional officials, and government representatives gathered to commend them for the work they had done to integrate new, biblical values into their lives and take ownership of their transformation.
These men were some of the excited graduates who completed the Academy in fiscal year 2019. At a ceremony for women completing the program in Minnesota, a graduate named Amy rejoiced at how much freedom she found by diving into the Academy’s supportive community, spiritual formation, and character development. “I have restoration and freedom to be me again. I had to lay everything at God’s feet for my bitterness and pain to heal,” she said.
3,000+ prisoners participate in 90 Academy sites in 28 states.
Prison Fellowship plans to have 172 Academy sites in all 50 states by 2026.
James, a current Academy participant in Oklahoma, is one of more than 3,000 men and women preparing to lead restored lives at 90 sites in 28 states. In the Academy, he has unearthed the roots of his addiction and his tendency to manipulate others, learning instead to walk with integrity and responsibility. He says, “I’ve been delivered from my drug addiction, and my mind is clearer than it has been in a long time. … Prison Fellowship accepted who I was, gave me a chance to change, and never lost hope in me.”
The Academy is beginning to reframe the national conversation about corrections. Instead of problems to be locked away, men and women behind bars are being seen as part of the solution. In Oklahoma, two Academy sites—one for men and one for women—are led by directors who were formerly incarcerated. Several other sites boast former prisoners at the helm, further proof that people transformed by Christ can become agents of restoration.
In addition to abundant anecdotal evidence of the Academy’s success, recent independent research in Texas and Minnesota has confirmed its effectiveness. A study conducted in 2017 by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice showed that few Academy graduates returned to prison within three years of their release, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in reduced costs. Research in Minnesota found that released Academy graduates earned higher hourly wages and paid more taxes than a similar control group.
Because of its results, the Academy continues to be eagerly received by departments of corrections around the country. Your generous support allows us to say “yes” as we make steady progress on our vision to expand the Academy to all 50 states by 2026.