Multinational orgs. partner for extensive in-prison study on prison program efficacy

Empirical, scientific evidence to build case for faith-based prison programs

WASHINGTON and MALIBU, Calif. Prison Fellowship International (PFI) and Pepperdine University, in partnership with the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute of Colombia (INPEC) and Prison Fellowship Colombia (PFC), announce a first-of-its-kind, multiyear study in Colombia’s prison system to measure the efficacy of international prison programming in offender rehabilitation, recidivism reduction, and general correctional reform. 

This experimental study will evaluate the effectiveness of PFI and PFC programs in changing prisoner attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. Findings will help identify specific, evidence-based best practices that drive meaningful change in the lives of prisoners and their families, as measured by changes in individual behavior, family unity, and prison culture.  

“We are delighted to be pioneering this ground-breaking initiative to further evaluate the effectiveness of our programs,” said Andrew Corley, PFI president and chief executive officer. “Each partner, uniquely creative and credible in their own right, is now joining together to evaluate what interventions are verifiably effective in breaking the cycle of crime.” 

With more than 113,000 prisoners across 132 prisons, Colombia maintains one of the largest prison systems in the world. For the past 20 years, Prison Fellowship Colombia has actively served the country’s prison population and currently has access to more than 83 percent of the nation’s prisoners through its portfolio of ministry programs. Over the past two decades, the organization has demonstrated its penchant for innovation – pioneering several Prison Fellowship International programs and restorative justice initiatives and advocating for prison reforms. The wide-ranging study also has support from the Colombian Senate and Judiciary. 

We anticipate that the findings of this study will enhance our resocialization programs and equip us, as lawmakers, with the necessary groundwork to amend, reinforce and advocate for new laws pertaining to resocialization and criminal policy in Colombia,” said Lorena Ríos Cuéllar, Member of the Senate of Colombia. 

The study will be overseen by Pepperdine University in California, a highly regarded Christian university ranked in the top 13 percent of all national universities. With more than 10,000 students, four graduate schools and five international locations, Pepperdine is committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and research evaluation. Its Center for Faith and the Common Good, led by Byron Johnson and Pepperdine president Jim Gash, is Pepperdine’s academic home for scholarly investigations of how faith and religion impact human flourishing.  

“Pepperdine’s Center for the Faith and Common Good is a relatively young academic research center that is in constant search for strategic partners who can help us develop new opportunities for research and scholarship,” said Dr. Lee B. Kats, vice provost of Pepperdine and academic director of the Center for Faith and the Common Good. “This new partnership with PFI fits perfectly with the Center’s mission to expand studies on the role that faith can play in impacting societies.” 

“We are delighted to undertake a study of this scope in Colombia. So much of what we know from previous research is based on short-term studies of prisons in the United States. In this present project, we will be able to study multiple prisons and multiple programs inside of prison as well as in the community, and to do this over time.” said Byron Johnson, executive director for the Center for Faith and the Common Good at Pepperdine University. “This is truly an unprecedented opportunity that will yield many studies that will help to improve the prison. This would not be possible without the partnership between INPEC, Prison Fellowship International, and Pepperdine University.” 

The longitudinal study will follow participants in 12 Prison Fellowship programs throughout eight prisons for five years or more. Initial participant cohorts will launch in October 2023 with thousands of prisoners and their families being studied over the course of the evaluation. 

Results are expected to be published within the first year. The publication of these research findings and subsequent training of prison ministries and correctional leaders around the world will promote the widespread adoption of prison programming best practices, especially within the Prison Fellowship program portfolio. The Colombian government will also use findings to improve the national prison system and will be built into training curriculum for prison guards.  


About Prison Fellowship International 
Since 1979, Prison Fellowship International has helped prisoners experience transformation from the inside out through the healing power of the Gospel. Its mission is to transform the lives of prisoners, their families and victims through a global network of ministry partners.

About Pepperdine University
Founded in 1937,
Pepperdine University is an independent, Christian university located 30 miles west of Downtown Los Angeles in scenic Malibu, California. The University enrolls approximately 10,300 students across its flagship liberal arts school, Seaver College; the Caruso School of Law; the Graziadio Business School; the Graduate School of Education and Psychology; and the School of Public Policy. Pepperdine is committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership. Follow Pepperdine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

About Prison Fellowship Colombia  
Prison Fellowship Colombia has been active in prison ministry for over 20 years, with access to over 83% of the nation’s prisoners through a portfolio of ministry programs for prisoners, their families, and crime victims. 

About National Penitentiary and Prison Institute of Colombia The National Penitentiary and Prison Institute of Colombia (INPEC) is a central government institution that is responsible for the incarceration, development and rehabilitation of prisoners, along with the administration of the country’s penitentiary system.  


Ella Cueva
Prison Fellowship International
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.


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