Prisons and Religion: "Nightline" Ignores Colson, Highlights Liberal Barry Lynn

In a recent Nightline episode that aired January 27, 2006, Vicki Mabrey presented what some call a controversial program  happening within the prison walls of Lawtey Correctional Institution.  The issue at hand – faith in prisons, and not just Christianity.

Mabrey contends that even though officials cite success with their program it isn’t really sufficient because there aren’t any scientific studies that prove that these types of faith based programs help lower disciplinary actions or lower recidivism rates.

 This is interesting since Mabrey didn’t talk to one of the foremost experts in prison ministry, Chuck Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship.  (Or if she did, it was left on the cutting room floor.) A cursory examination on the Prison Fellowship website  reveals that Mabrey and Barry Lynn are incorrect about there being no studies that show faith helps in redeeming prisoners, lowering recidivism rates and lower disciplinary actions.

 Prison Fellowship states, “While only limited credible research has appeared in criminal justice literature on the value of religious programming for prisoners and ex-prisoners, studies of Prison Fellowship programs have now been widely published. Prison Fellowship continues to evaluate its programs and is committed to getting the word out that Christian programs for prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families help reduce the effects of crime in our society.”

Of the eight cited research studies on the Prison Fellowship website, four of them deal specifically with recidivism.  In every single case the research showed that the recidivism rates were lower for those who had participated in Prison Fellowship programs. See information here. 

However, even if Mabrey doesn’t want to give credit to Prison Fellowship’s success, her reporting clearly shows that Lawtey is having success with recidivism.  Of 642 prisoners who participated in the Lawtey program and who were released in 2003 only 48 have returned.  This is about 13% of those involved in the program.

Despite this success it is clear that Mabrey has some problem with Christianity as she asks one Orthodox Jew, “You don’t feel like this is a prison all about Christianity?” even though there are 28 religions represented in the program she didn’t single out any other religion to attack.

Instead she had on the liberal Rev.  Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State who called this arrangement "constitutional quicksand."

She could’ve had on any number of Constitutional lawyers who disagree with Lynn if she wanted to make her piece more fair and balanced.  Jay Sekulow, Craig Parshall and many more could have added a different perspective.  However, Mabrey apparently couldn’t help herself because she only presented the liberal view, and did every thing she could do to undermine the success that faith does play in helping prisoners, by focusing on an issue that isn’t an issue – so called Constitutional problems. 

Lawtey is working within state and government guidelines and volunteers are doing the faith based work.  The prisoners are volunteering for the program.  So there isn’t any state coercion and with 4000 inmates on the waiting list to enter this program there must be something working and a need being met to help heal the wounded hearts in these prisons that isn't being found in purely secular run programs.

For your convenience we have three clips of this Nightline piece that was clearly biased towards the left.

 Barry Lynn on "Constitutional Quicksand" -  Download Video

Vicki Mabrey asking about Christianity - Download Video

Barry Lynn lying about recitivism studies - Download Video