The Dictionary defines a recidivist as a convicted criminal who reoffends repeatedly. When a former inmate has been released back into society after which they reoffend resulting in re-incarceration…it is called “recidivism.” In the United States the national recidivism rate is approximately 70%.
Since its beginnings in January of 2002, over 2000 male and female inmates have completed the Theotherapy Project programs at correctional facilities in Middle Tennessee. A study concluded in May of 2009 indicated a significant drop in the recidivism rate for those inmates graduating from our programs who were released back into the community over the first seven years of the program.
The 2009 study reflected a combined recidivism average of 15%, which is an overall drop of 4% from the previous study conducted in 2007.
In December of 2008, Richard Dixon, Director of Volunteer Services for the Tennessee Department of Corrections approached us with the idea of allowing them to do a study on the effect of the Theotherapy Project programs on participating inmates’ behavior. The findings were as follows:
230 inmate graduates were included in the study and reflected the total number of inmates at that time who had graduated from our programs at Turney Center Industrial Prison and Tennessee Prison for Women. Many inmates take the program more than once, however this number indicates the actual number of inmate graduates we had at that time and does not reflect multiple times in the program. Each inmate was only counted once regardless of the number of times they had repeated the program. Each inmate’s disciplinary record was evaluated over the entire term of their involvement in the program, whether graduating from the program just once or several times.
The study reflects the disciplinary statistics for each inmate participant during the year prior to their involvement, during their actual involvement in the program and infractions after they left the program. The statistics are as follows:
229 documented infractions were recorded one year prior to the individual inmates’ participation. Some inmates had no disciplinary infractions before, during or after the program. Other inmates had multiple infractions.
In addition, of the 68 inmates who have moved into the role of intern or facilitator (which means they have to repeat the basic program at least twice and take the more advanced facilitator training class), infractions dropped from 100 recorded infractions to only 4…a drop of 96%!The number of infractions dropped to 103 total infractions recorded during the inmates’ enrollment in the program. This is a drop of 55% in disciplinary infractions.
Major infractions dropped by 78%. Minor infractions dropped by 64%. The most significant change for an individual female inmate was 9 infractions prior to involvement in the program significantly decreasing to 2 infractions during involvement. The most significant change for an individual male inmate was 10 infractions prior to involvement significantly dropping to 0 (zero) during enrollment.
In summary, the TDOC study indicates an overall drop in disciplinary infractions for inmates completing the program at least once and an even greater drop in disciplinary infractions for those inmates going on to achieve leadership roles in the program.
In Davidson County (Metropolitan Nashville, Tennessee), many criminal court judges, attorneys for the State, defense attorneys and the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole are noticing the impact of Theotherapy in the lives of prison inmates. Because of the initiative’s success, completion of the Theotherapy program has become a prerequisite for suspended sentencing, parole and early release in many situations where inmates must choose and participate in a six month program as a release requirement. Recently, the Theotherapy initiative was introduced at the Federal court level.
The Theotherapy Project programs work! Not only are we seeing a significant decline in recidivism for inmates completing the program, we are seeing significant changes taking place while they are incarcerated. God’s principles of emotional healing and freedom truly work regardless of the circumstances or surroundings.