Colson’s program slashed recidivism 5


By Barbara J. Ward
Dear Mr. Quiner,
    I just want to say thank you for your column (May 30th, Colson was a prodigal son who deserved our forgiveness) that I read in the Des Moines Register.  I felt heartsick and shocked after I read Kaul’s column (which I normally don’t read – but it was about Colson).
    I was a volunteer for 5 years in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) prison program that Chuck Colson led in the correctional facility near Newton, IA.  I have heard him speak about past mistakes to inmates and to show them through his words and actions how we MUST forgive.
    He would tell them “Power corrupts men!”
    I taught men who were sometimes hostile, argumentative, etc. And yet after they spent time reading their bibles and listening to Christian people teach, something happened: their hearts began to change, all because of a program started by Mr. Colson.
    The inmates often talked about the “hope” this program gave them, more hope than they ever had.
    I saw that happen to many men (hard core criminals) over a 5-year period. That change came through Chuck Colson’s leadership; but of course he would give all the credit to Jesus Christ who changed him.
    I know that when we say the word “Jesus” some people shudder.  “God” is more politically correct.
    I know as a Christian woman that some would may judge me a bigot, a bible thumper, or worse.
    That’s okay with me.  I already know I’m a sinner just like Colson knew he was. So many Christian detractors don’t realize that an honest Christian is already aware of his or her sin.
    Studying the bible; going to church; trying to serve others in a good manner only means we want to change as Jesus would teach us to change.  That’s why he came here as a man to change us all: our hearts and our motives.
    Chuck Colson was aware of that and made a huge difference to so many lives.
    When our program was closed by a liberal group from Washington D.C. and a liberal judge, the staff in our IFI program told us that our program and the volunteers had helped keep 600 men out of prison for 3 to 5 full years after they had served their time.
    Our prison in Newton held 1,000 men.  No one ever talked about how much that program saved in taxpayer dollars. Instead, you only heard about a separation of church and state conflict. The recidivism rate in IFI was only 13 to 16% compared to 66% in the general prison population.
    As you can tell I’m not a writer, but a person with a heart for the late Chuck Colson. Chuck took a great responsibility upon himself in admitting his errors, repenting and then making a difference in a lot of people’s lives.
    It took a great man to do all of that.  I feel a great deal of pity for people who just simply don’t “get it.”  Ironically, I believe Chuck Colson would be the first person to forgive Donald Kaul’s ignorance. Perhaps Mr. Kaul is simply jealous of Colson who was a great intellect and so very eloquent when he spoke or wrote.
    Thank you again for your time and your most kind and understanding words about Chuck Colson.  It was so nice to see good things being said about a great man.  Perhaps you too are a great man, because you recognize who and what he did for all who are called “the least of these.”  God Bless!
Barbara J. Ward
Newton, Iowa
[Thanks to Barbara Ward for sharing her thoughts on the late Chuck Colson. Ms. Ward lives in Newton, IA, and has been married for 55 years to Bill. She is a mother and grandmother.]

5 comments

  1. That may be the case at Newton. Unfortunately with a program like that you can’t control how it is administered in every prison around the country. I have also heard of countless lives being changed and hearts turning to Christ because of it.

    Much evil has been done in the name of the Catholic Church, but that doesn’t mean that the Catholic Church is bad and should be eliminated.

    All that being said, it doesn’t change the gist of Toms article.

    Colson spent 40 years atoning for his sins and selflessly giving of himself and it is just like the self proclaimed atheist that Kaul is to judge him and doubt his motives after his death. A guy like Kaul is of incapable of grasping the idea redemption.

    And it is very typical of government to insist the elimination of any program that depends on the power of God rather than the power of government.

    • The program was eliminated not because of depending upon God. Rather the inimates in IFI program received privileges and accomodations that were not also available to non IFI inmates.

      • I don’t buy it for a minute. Supposing special privileges were doled out for attending a yoga class with Buddhist teaching. I don’t believe for a minute that it would have been cancelled. And if it works and reduces the recidivism rate, shouldn’t everyone, especially Christians, be fighting for it?

        No one was forced into the program. If the Muslims and the Hindus and the Buddhists wanted to start a program and it worked, without negative side effects in the prison, I say more power to them.

        The benefit of evangelizing Christ to those who may have not heard the message could be seen as a side benefit.

  2. I was a minister at the Newton Correctional Facility during the era of InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) prison program. Other ministers, inmates, and I had to deal with “Catholic bashing” from both participants, volunteers, and staff in the IFI program. It needed to change or shut down. I am saddened IFI was not willing to change as IFI provide a much needed structure for those incarcerated. I am grateful that ministers and inmates no longer have to deal the IFI program participants, volunteers, and staff members. The “holier than thou” attitude and “special privileges for participants” needed to go.

    • To Mr. Amadeo – I am saddened by your remarks with the IFI program and this will be a one-time response. I guess since your experience was so negative I wonder why you would have stayed; perhaps, you didn’t for very long. My experience as a volunteer was that when we went through orientation we were told any inmate that did not agree or like the IFI program could leave and go back to general population any time without a problem. Also, I NEVER bashed the Catholic church. My own Protestant faith comes from Catholic teaching. I am not a bible scholar, but have always believed that. In my church our creed even states “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” I NEVER BASHED ANYONE’S FAITH nor encouraged mine own. I taught lessons given to me. Sir, I loved those men whose lives were torn and broken and my goal was to tell them that they were loved by Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin birth, lived and died on the cross for MY sins, and that he forgave us all and that we are saved through our faith. Each one of us on this earth is responsible for our own soul – and our Jesus wants to save us all, but he gives us a choice. We are each responsible for that choice. It is a wonderful spriitual journey through one’s own heart with Christ. Chuck Colson did his best; he couldn’t reach everyone. I can only know what my experience was in the IFI program and I saw with my own eyes hearts change. I always told my classes, “It’s not how we begin, but it’s how we end.” May God bless you, Mr. Amadeo, with all that He can give!!!

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