There is mounting evidence that increasing religiosity not only reduces crime and delinquency, but it also promotes prosocial behavior. In spite of these findings, experts rarely include the “faith factor” in discussions of possible solutions to crime, drug use, offender treatment, or ex-prisoners returning to society. This failing can be attributed in equal measure to the secular criminal justice professionals who allow their own anti-religious prejudices to shape their judgements, as well as to the religious volunteers who rely so heavily on their own beliefs that they see no need to validate their work with actual research. These shortcomings have cost the American public untold damages in both wealth and safety.
In More God, Less Crime renowned criminologist Byron R. Johnson proves that religion can be a powerful antidote to crime. The book describes how faith communities, congregations, and faith-based organizations are essential in forming partnerships necessary to provide the human and spiritual capital to effectively address crime, offender rehabilitation, and the substantial aftercare problems facing former prisoners. There is scattered research literature on religion and crime but until now, there has never been one publication that systematically and rigorously analyzes what we know from this largely overlooked body of research in a lay-friendly format. The data shows that when compared to current strategies, faith-based approaches to crime prevention bring added value in targeting those factors known to cause crime: poverty, lack of education, and unemployment. In an age of limited fiscal resources, Americans can't afford a criminal justice system that turns its nose up at volunteer efforts that could not only work better than the abysmal status quo, but also save billions of dollars at the same time. This book provides readers with practical insights and recommendations for a faith-based response that could do just that.
More God, Less Crime will serve a roadmap for how the “faith factor” can become a powerful catalyst to mobilize faith-based efforts to more effectively confront the many chronic problems facing the American criminal justice system. It should be required reading not only for those working within this system, but for the everyday people who fill the pews of the more than 380,000 religious congregations across the country as well.
Table of Contents
Foreword / vii
Introduction / xi
Chapter 1: The Last Acceptable Prejudice / 3
Chapter 2: Preachers Partner with Police to Reduce Gang Violence: The Boston Miracle / 13
Chapter 3: Children of Prisoners: People of Faith Mentoring Children of Promise / 27
Chapter 4: The Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and the Violence-Free Zone / 43
Chapter 5: A Systematic Review of the Literature: 1944 to 2010 / 73
Chapter 6: Can a Faith-Based Prison Reduce Recidivism? / 99
Chapter 7: Can a Faith-Based Prison Rehabilitate Inmates? / 117
Chapter 11: Not by Faith Alone: The Need for Intermediaries / 203
Acknowledgments / 219
Appendixes / 221
Notes / 259
Index / 283
Johnson fully, carefully, and persuasively reveals the best-kept secret about crime reduction: religion works!
What Byron Johnson calls 'the last acceptable prejudice'—prejudice against religion—is actually a formidable obstacle to sound criminal justice policy. I have maintained for years that faith is the key factor in transforming hardened criminals into law abiding citizens, and thus critical to reducing recidivism. And now, in More God, Less Crime Byron Johnson confirms what I and thousands of volunteers have known to be true—that faith matters in important and measurable ways. Johnson treats an important subject with scientific rigor. He documents how and why faith and faith-based approaches are essential for any comprehensive approach to crime and justice. More God, Less Crime is must reading for volunteers, practitioners, and policy-makers alike.
More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More is geared toward federal, state, county and community corrections, as well as parole and probation faith-based partnerships for youths and adults. I recommend this book as a crucial read for all sectors involved in a faith-based initiative that is established or just commencing. Correctional practitioners will find that the InnerChange Freedom initiative is different than other prison ministries in that it represents the first full-scale attempt to offer religious programs in a prison environment virtually around the clock.
The essential perspective is a spiritual confrontation with the authentic self. Basic dysfunctional characteristics can be transformed from negatives to positives with faith-based mentors/spiritual partners who provide holistic and metaphysical examples via their lifestyles, which encompass behavior that is visible and measurable.
Inmates, while incarcerated, need a structure, safe environment that allows participation time for assigned details as well as denominational and nondenominational services of worship to include praise teams. These elements provide consistency of support and nurture. Spiritual development is a transformational journey that seeks a redemptive core of values. Staff and faith-based partners (volunteers) provide additional insight due to the integral role they play in the inmate’s daily life.
The five spiritual transformation themes provide a comprehensive rebirth from secular norms and pressures to Christian values. According to Johnson, there is a need to have redemptive value coupled with the need to give back and make amends to the Christian community. Stigmatization of the inmate identification number can cause shame-based feelings of unimportance, devaluation and worthlessness. Mentoring received from faith-based partners is hypercritical to the transformation change to embracing a life of change and being accepted, first by God. Accountability for written and verbal words is a major change for an inmate due to the prison culture, which has its own vocabulary. The choice to be mentored changes the inmate’s cognitive structure. Social gender makes an impact, as faith-based partners are both female and male. Relationships are culled in order to embrace the new life of spiritual metamorphosis that will heighten their belief system of Christian norms. Reentry is a crucial dynamic that is pivotal with the need for assistance transitioning back into society. There is a need for a residence plan, employment, physical and/or mental health medications, family restructuring, education and finances just to name a few, along with spiritual development as a life-long need. “Intermediaries are an important strategy to level the playing field by assisting organizations in being more productive and enhancing important community resources,” Johnson said.
More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More addresses the need for more faith-based partnerships, intermediaries and opportunities for those inmates who have been transformed by their choice to join the Christian community. The tables with quantitative analysis have the fluidity to change with more positive outcomes if society at large embraces the redemptive religious programming format that changes and challenges an inmate to integrate successfully back into society.
The book is full of positive examples of what can happen when Christians get involved in their local community. He tells the story of “The Boston Miracle” where police and pastors worked together to break the stranglehold gangs had in the community. He also talks about the mission of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and violence-free zones. And he even gives practical advice on the important issue of prisoner reentry and aftercare.
Most importantly, he provides a review of the literature so that churches and faith-based organizations can show skeptics that the title of the book is true: More God, Less Crime.
Johnson, a Baylor University faculty member and the head of the Institute for Studies of Religion and the Program on Prosocial Behavior, goes much deeper than tabloid-style news. He gives a well-researched academic argument that Christian faith can have a beneficial influence in the battle against crime.
There is much in this little volume that would be helpful to any person who seeks to better understand the meaning of life. Moreover, for those of us who seek to be caregivers it is an important contribution for our personal and professional growth and development.