When Religious Groups Make Moves that the Government Won’t

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By Angela Wills

The Little Rock branch of an Arkansas Community Correction Center have three options in regards to how they spend their day. One of these options involves a program known as The Exodus Project. This is a program that offers guidance for inmates and helps prepare them for life once they are released from prison. This instruction is based on Christian values.

Once accepted into the Exodus Project, which is limited to five inmates per term, they are in a classroom setting on the campus of Arkansas Baptist College for four hours per day. Here is where they learn about ethics, recovery and Jesus Christ. Once they return to the prison, they are granted full access to the GED study room and are allowed to read their workbooks and study the Bible.

Numbers show that 42% of the inmates that are released from prison in Arkansas return to jail. Observation of those inmates that were accepted into the Exodus Project the first year and have been released reveals that none of them have returned to the system. Acceptance into the program is based on several factors and the process of admission is rigorous to ensure that only those inmates who truly qualify are accepted to the program.

The Exodus Project is a leading example of one of the faith-based programs that the government can’t or won’t provide. Typically, it’s groups and projects like these that are stepping up to the plate and making these programs available for prisoners that offer rehabilitation which prevents them from funneling back into the system.

The state of Arkansas is seeking more assistance from faith-based groups. This past summer, Governor Asa Hutchinson proclaimed what he called the Restore Hope Summit, as an effort to link together hundreds of faith leaders statewide for two days. His plan was to encourage the leaders to become hands on in helping with the kids in the foster care system and people that are re-entering society from prison.

Most prisons are eager to accept assistance from outside sources such as faith-based groups to help reform the prison population. The prisons need the assistance because they can’t do it alone and the government is providing much help in this area.

The biggest obstacle is for prisoners who aren’t Christian or don’t rely on faith because these type of organizations present the largest database of reform and are often the only option. The alternative? Return to prison if they don’t want to learn about faith and the word of God.

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