Byron Johnson on More God, Less Crime
Date: June 20th, 2011

How effective are religious-based rehabilitation programs in reducing recidivism among released prisoners?  We invite Prof. Byron Johnson, co-founder and director of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion and author of More God, Less Crime, to discuss his comprehensive research into this issue.  We begin with a review of how church-state partnerships have helped to reduce juvenile delinquency in places such as Boston and Philadelphia, and then turn out attention to general theories of whether incarcerated individuals can be rehabilitated or not.  Based on numerous studies, including his own, Byron takes a firm stance in favor of rehabilitation and argues forcefully for faith-based educational programs in jail.  We then talk about Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship and devote a significant amount of time to examining the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) sponsored by the Prison Fellowship in a Houston-area penitentary.  Byron reviews how inmates are accepted into the program, what the IFI entails, and reveals that graduates of this program show a remarkable decrease in recidivism rates.  We address the methodological skeptics by talking about some of the limitations of the study and Byron makes a good case that participants in this program are, if anything, the least likely to show any progress yet the IFI program does yield an insipiring success rate.  The last part of our interview focuses on the critical need for “aftercare” — i.e., developing church-based mentoring programs for paroled or released convicts.  While most of the energy in prison ministries is devoted to what goes on inside the jail walls, the long-term success of these programs requires extensive follow up when former prisoners are released into environments that can often tempt them back into old habits.  We also discuss the opportunity for greater partnerships between religious organizations and local, state, and federal agencies that are cost-effective and an attractive alternative to purely government-based.   Recorded: May 26, 2011.


Byron Johnson’s website at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters, and Why It Could Matter More, by Byron R. Johnson.

Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.  (A great resource for relevant and accessible research, with many reports free to the public.)


Byron Johnson on Religion & Delinquency.

Merisa Davis on Bill Cosby, Religion, & African-American Churches.

Jay Hein on the Faith-Based & Community Initiative.

Eric Carter on Religion & the NFL.

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