A new study reveals that prisoners who tap into their faith are less angry, more hopeful, and able to extend forgiveness more easily.
Prison Fellowship International (PFI) backed the new study by Baylor University, which is providing evidence that faith is having a positive effect on inmate’s mental health.
“This study confirms what we have believed for a long time,” said David Van Patten, Chief Operating Officer of PFI. “That a prisoner’s involvement in religious programming has a transformative effect on their beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. Now we have empirical evidence that prisoners are becoming less violent and exercising greater self-control through programs like PFI’s around the world.”
The study was conducted in Monteria Prison in Colombia and found that prisoners who took part in a religious service, prayed, and read a sacred book exhibited more self-control, thankfulness, and forgiveness than the inmates who didn’t. They were also less angry, less depressed, and less anxious.
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“This study contributes to the criminal justice literature by adding positive evidence of the virtuous effect of religion on mental health among incarcerated individuals,” said Dr. Sung Joon Jang, research professor of criminology and co-director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). “We found that both public and private religious behaviors were positively associated with the virtues.”
Jang’s study focused on PFI’s “The Prisoner’s Journey” program which teaches inmates about Jesus in an eight-week course.
PFI has access to more than 60% of the global prison population on six continents and they report seeing positive change among many inmates.
Through the program, more than 1 million prisoners have been invited to learn about Jesus, nearly 500,000 have graduated from “The Prisoner’s Journey” course, and more than 300,000 have continued to further their relationship with Christ through discipleship.
“Our programs in prisons are restoring prisoners’ lives, helping their families, and successfully integrating them back into the community—for good,” reads a statement on their website.