I work with the Kairos prison ministry, and go to jails to talk to prisoners if they are interested. I’m a big fan of the success of the program – prisons track “recidivism” as opposed to true reincarnation, the main difference being recidivism can be defined to an easily trackable statistic. The reality is, the definition is part functional and part political – some states reward prisons systems with low recidivism, others only allocate money where needed, so higher recidivism rates mean more money.
However it is tracked, the Kairos program produces a minimum reduction of 30% in recidivism – and in Florida, where the program is prevalent, up to a 60% reduction in recidivism was shown for participants who remained active in the Kairos program while in prison. I should note that while this is a christian-based program, and I am christian, the program is open to anyone picked by the prison “inside team.” I have met with Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, Jews, etc. (I should also point out, while Williamsville Wellness employs many Christians, we are not a christian recovery center. We accept anyone who is serious about getting better.)
All of that said, drugs are actually a problem in prison. In one prison I visited, I ended up having to take an inmate aside and do a one-on-one session with him. He had been in prison for 14 years, and was 10 days sober. The last drug he’d taken, a home-made combination of a lot of chemicals, made him go blind temporarily. While in the prison hospital area, he had a cardiac event – but he wasn’t sure what kind, or he simply chose not to tell me. Either way, it scared him badly.
He needed to vent and talk about what he went through, so I listened. Then I recommend one of the AA/NA meetings routinely held at that prison. I really respected his willingness to try to be open to people about his issues, and that he wanted to work on then. We then talked about how much time he had left (2 years), and the vocational training available.
He wanted to be a barber – something that prison offered training in, which was actually a pretty good plan. If he needed to rent a chair at a location, his felony convictions could be overlooked by individuals with their own shop. His family had an old house zoned properly, not in use. He thought he could fix up and start his own shop one day. It was one of the more reasonable concepts I’ve heard for how to get on with the rest of his life for someone with that much time in jail. (He had been 19 when convicted.)
Recovery really isn’t about erasing and starting over – it’s about accepting, dealing, and moving on in a reasonable fashion. What’s done is still done – but moving forward, corrections can be made. Getting to peace with your past and current situation is an important part of healing.