Good Citizenship Model™
A model and measure of transformation: beyond preventing recidivism
For decades, the measuring stick of prison’s success has been avoiding recidivism. A prisoner not returning meant a job well done. But we do not think that is an accurate metric—not by a long shot. In that spirit, we introduce the Good Citizenship Model™.
Why Are Recidivism Rates So High?
It is a question asked by laypeople and professionals alike—and the answers are complicated. People who go to prison have often faced many challenges in life, and those challenges tend to get even harder after they are released. The reasons why someone may be re-arrested or re-incarcerated are so numerous and vary so widely that a simple statistic does not tell enough of the story.
When someone does not get re-arrested or re-incarcerated, why? There are many possibilities. They may be thriving, contributing members of their community. They may be working two jobs with little to no social support, trying to keep their heads down. Or they simply may be better at not getting caught. When someone gets re-arrested or re-incarcerated, is it because of a parole technicality? Is it because they started using or drinking again? Were they engaged in the same or worse kinds of activity as before? All of these questions are vital to understanding outcome of incarceration.
An Atmosphere Unconducive to Change
We know people can change, but why would we expect them to while warehoused in an antisocial environment? Most people who go to prison do not have the opportunity to participate in rehabilitation programming, even if they want to. Treatment resources are limited, resulting in prioritization of those deemed at highest risk for continued criminal behavior or with the most serious record.
The typical prison in the United States offers a physical and social atmosphere that is, in many ways, antithetical to rehabilitation. Prison atmospheres tend to be hard and often unsupportive. Rehabilitative resources are limited. Additional obstacles—like stigmatization and employment discrimination—await former prisoners upon release. Yet we expect people who have already had challenging lives to somehow turn themselves around.
We want people who go to prison to have the opportunity to learn and practice a prosocial approach to life. We want them to flourish as human beings. However, the way corrections measures success does not capture this; recidivism does not reflect the whole story. In other words, the current model of corrections and the measure by which we gauge success are not working. We need something different.
A New Way to Look at Success in Corrections
To this end, Prison Fellowship® has developed the Good Citizenship Model—a new lens for looking at change among people in prison and the prison culture itself. The Good Citizenship Model represents an entirely different way to conceptualize success in corrections primarily targeting prisoner’s underlying and guiding values where criminogenic behavior is rooted. We know that you get what you measure. Our model attempts to raise the bar for corrections by measuring success rather than failure, and it intends to answer two crucial questions:
Is this person equipped with values to be good citizens and flourish in life?
Is the prison culture one that fosters the development of good citizenship?
To answer these questions, we identified prosocial values that tend to be associated with human flourishing and a natural reduction in criminal thinking and behavior. We believe that adoption of these six core values will facilitate fundamental and sustainable changes in thinking and behaving for people in prison. We also believe that a successful prison culture will support not only more effective rehabilitation efforts for people in prison, but also healthier and more resilient correctional workforces.
- Community: Building relationships and caring for others.
- Affirmation: Recognizing others’ worth, strengths, and achievements.
- Productivity: Using time and energy constructively.
- Responsibility: Owning one’s actions and committing to change.
- Restoration: Seeking and promoting reconciliation.
- Integrity: Knowing and doing the right thing.
To capture these concepts, we are developing new assessment instruments that measure these Values of Good Citizenship™ among people in prison and the culture within the institutions themselves.
The Good Citizenship Inventory (GCI) measures an individual’s endorsement of the Values of Good Citizenship. The results of the GCI will provide a roadmap to assist the individual in their journey towards good citizenship and, ultimately, human flourishing.
The Prison Culture Assessment (PCA) measures the prison environment from the perspective of both staff and people in prison. The results of the PCA provide prison leaders with a snapshot of where their facility's culture is healthy and conducive to the development of good citizenship or could be improved.
The Compelling Hope of Good Citizenship
The Good Citizenship Model was developed based on research literature, the wisdom of returned citizens, broad cultural and Christian principles, and what we have learned from over four decades of working with people in prison, their families, prison staff, people impacted by crime, and others. We are testing the model scientifically, and we invite others to do so as well.
Our goal is to see people in prison and all those impacted by crime and incarceration restored. As we test this model, we will continue to improve our knowledge about what works to bring about restoration.
For over 45 years, Prison Fellowship has operated from the conviction that no life is beyond change. Character is not static. With positive influences, interactions, and setting high expectations, prisoners can lead restored lives that not only leave behind destructive behaviors but replace them with a positive value system. Incarcerated men and women can become good citizens and begin living out their success stories whether they are returning to the community or not. A culture of good citizenship can bring about a ripple effect of change that impacts prisoners, families of prisoners, correctional staff, people impacted by crime, and communities outside of prison. Ultimately, changed people can, in turn, change people, systems, and history.