Op-Ed Articles Respond to Bush's Faith-Based Initiative

January 31, 2001

Source: Los Angeles Times

On January 31, 2001, the Los Angeles Times published a commentary by Charles W. Colson that defended Bush's faith-based initiative. Colson is chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries and he served time in prison for Watergate-related offenses. He spoke about the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Houston, which was started by his ministry. "For 18 hours a day, prisoners who volunteer for the program are immersed in intensive life-skills training and Bible study. After 18 months, they are released, matched with a mentor, given a job and welcomed in a local church...Of the 80 prisoners who have completed the program, only three are back in custody." The national recidivism rate is 40% to 60%. According to Colson, the experts have shown "that crime is caused by the lack of moral training during the morally formative years...I have seen nothing apart from the life-changing power of Jesus Christ that can lift a person out of a life of crime. The most effective volunteers," Colson says, "are those motivated by their faith." Colson cites a mentoring program called Transition of Prisoners, or TOP, in Detroit. "Less than 16% of TOP's graduates have gone back to prison, compared with 57% from a control group." Religious organizations providing nonprofit social services, he says, "should be allowed to compete for government funding and assistance on the same footing as other nonprofits and without having to sacrifice their faith identities...Programs like ours, after all, are voluntary. They are open to all. The participants can leave at any time."