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More God, Less Crime

Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More

Byron R. Johnson

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.

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 8: Jailhouse Religion, Spiritual Transformation, and Long-Term Change / 155

Chapter 9: Why Religion Matters / 171

Chapter 10: Prisoner Reentry and Aftercare / 185

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!

Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity

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.

Chuck Colson, founder, Prison Fellowship, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview