Faith-based Prison Units
Communities of Restoration are an alternative approach to prisoner rehabilitation and prison management. COR is a values-based re-entry programme which starts in the prison but then walks with the participant during the difficult transition back into the community by providing mentoring and support.
Communities of Restoration
A number of Prison Fellowship Affiliates operate faith-based prison units as an alternative approach to prisoner rehabilitation and prison management. These in-prison communities foster the spiritual and moral regeneration of prisoners by helping them understand their own human dignity as well as that of others around them. From this foundation, prisoners assume responsibility for themselves and seek to contribute to the lives of others.
Communities of Restoration (COR) are 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, intensive prison regimes operated by Prison Fellowship. They focus on restoration of offenders to themselves, their families, their victims, their communities and their creator by allowing them to experience and participate in responsible, supportive and caring relationships.
How It Began
Thirty-five years ago, a small group of professionals, business people and retirees in the suburbs of Sao Paolo, Brazil, began visiting prisoners in their city to attend to their medical, psychological, educational, vocational and spiritual needs.
The result was the "APAC Methodology", named after their organization in Brazil, Associacao de Protecao e Assistencia aos Condenados ("Association for Protection and Assistance of Convicts"). This methodology was so effective that government officials began turning entire prisons over to them to operate. News spread to other countries and the approach has now been adapted and replicated throughout Latin America, North America, Europe, and the Pacific. Prison Fellowship International refers to APAC and its replications as Communities of Restoration.
How It Works
The programmes typically occupy a special unit or wing within a prison.
Participants volunteer to be part of the programme after receiving an orientation in the nature and focus of the programme.
While COR is "faith-based" (Christian ecumenical), it is open to persons of any or no faith. All that is required is that the individual be willing to respect the values and to explore the implications of Christianity as a response to the spiritual nature of humans. They are not required to be Christians to enter - or to graduate from 0 the programme.
The most developed CORs advance through three phases:
- Phase One: Prisoners learn to live in community. They engage in creative work, and begin to reflect spiritually on their lives. Trained volunteers and administrative staff assess their needs and abilities and create tailored plans with the prisoners.
- Phase Two: Prisoners are given opportunities to serve others. They help administer and maintain the facility, teach other prisoners, and serve in a variety of leadership positions. They engage in productive work in prison industries as part of their preparation for eventual freedom.
- Phase Three: Prisoners work in the community during the day and return to prison at night. This allows them to confront real-world challenges and temptations while they still have a supportive community in the COR.
This support does not end with their release. Volunteers are in regular contact as the inmates make the transition to contributing members of society.
Several promising studies affirm the success of the APAC methodology. One used records from the original APAC facility, Humaita Prison. Two others were related to the first Community of Restoration in the United States, called the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) program.
The first study compared the re-arrest rates of Humaita prisoners over three years with those from another model prison. It found that only 5% a year were re-arrested, half the rate of the other model. Those who did get in trouble had fewer arrests and were less likely to be locked up again than the other group.
In 2003, two reports were released based on a six-year study of the IFI programme in Texas. Both found that prisoners who completed the program had significantly lowered recidivism rates than did comparison groups.