The corrections department is expanding a faith-based program that prepares inmates for the outside world.

The Interchange Freedom Initiative debuted in Missouri in March at the Algoa men’s prison near Jefferson City. Today it extends to the women’s prison in Vandalia. It’s a special program for inmates within 18 to 24 months of release. It’s entirely voluntary. It’s a high discipline program that features extensive teaching, counseling, and personal preparation to help inmates stay out when they get out.

Corrections department spokesman Brian Hauswirth says it’s not a requirement for release….and not everybody will want to be in the program. He says the program, based on Christian principles, focuses on six values: responsibility, community, productivity, integrity, restoration, and affirmation. Although it’s a faith-based program, inmates are not required to be religlious to take part. Participants get guidance from a mentor and support from the faith community when they leave prison for at least six months.

One example of the personal discipline involved—inmates in the program must give up their television sets in their cells during much of the time they’re in the I-F-I.

Experience in Texas indicates the program works. The return rate for inmates who have not gone through the program has been about 20 percent. For those who’ve gone through it, the recidivism rate is only eight. Hauswirth says it’s likely to be a couple of years before an assessment of the program’s value in Missouri can be made. He says the first 20 men in the program at Algoa have not yet left prison.

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