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Bridges to Life: The Impact of an In-Prison Restorative Justice Intervention  

Author:  Marilyn Peterson Armour, Ph.D..; John Sage.; Allen Rubin, Ph.D..; Liliane C. Windsor, Ph.D..

Source: Volume 18, Number 01, Fall 2008 , pp.19-25(7)

Journal of Community Justice (formerly Journal of Community Corrections)

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This article examines the practices, programs and results of Bridges to Life (BTL), a manualized, pre-release, ecumenical faith-based, three-month, in-prison program that uses a restorative justice approach to facilitate victim healing and help offenders come to terms with their offenses and learn to deal with them in rehabilitative and redemptive ways. BTL has operated in 14 Texas prisons and has completed 51 projects serving more than 1,500 inmates since 2000. BTL has tracked the recidivism rates of its graduates using statistics gathered from the state’s computerized criminal history file kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Although no controlled study of BTL has been conducted and the three-year recidivism study is not complete, statistics collected for the BTL program by the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) indicate that, so far, only 12.4% of post release BTL participants have been reincarcerated, a figure that stands in stark contrast to the three-year recidivism rate of 31.4% for the general offender population in Texas and the three-year recidivism rate of 67.5% nationally. This drop in recidivism suggests that in addition to victim sensitization and victim healing, in-prison programs may offer increased safety for citizens, produce financial savings related to reduced offender incarceration, and demonstrate to the community that offenders can contribute to society rather than being a financial and emotional liability.

Keywords: Prison-based restorative justice

Affiliations:  1: University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work; 2: Bridges to Life; 3: University of Texas School of Social Work; 4: Rutgers University School of Social Work.

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