Pastor’s Column: Prison Chaplain, Path to Restoration
Path to Restoration – Taste of God’s Glory
Many insiders state how blessed that they made it to prison to find relief to the endless vice of criminal bondage, or find refuge of hope where their close criminal friends have passed away on the outside from the devastating impacts of criminal life. Some insiders I work with are considered the most difficult, high risk population in Minnesota that get release but only return back to prison, time and time again.
It was Christ’s determination from my first calling as Lead Chaplain to use my spiritual gifts to develop an effective model of restoration. The salient undertaking was to bring restoration to the depravity of offenders’ spiritual condition as their mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7).
Some insiders I work with are considered the most difficult, high risk population in Minnesota that get release but only return back to prison, time and time again.
To see same offenders return back to prison with so much pain and despair only to be told “it was your decision” and without an effective pathway to restoration, God’s benevolent mercy and grace, through faith, restores the offender. Today I am a high risk Prison Chaplain in the state of Minnesota working with the incarcerated Federal, State and local community focused on spiritual restoration with a cognitive, evidence based approach in achieving a sustained, self-sufficient, grace filled transition back into society.
Issues are Getting More Severe
The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population yet incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners, incarcerating at a rate 4 to 7 times higher than other Western nations. This corrections system impacts American taxpayers by over $80 billion per year. With over two million people “behind bars,” the U.S. has the highest total prison population in the world.
Incarceration and recidivism most directly affect non-white and poor individuals
New crimes committed by individuals released from prison have been increasing. Recidivism has come to be known as “the revolving door” in and out of prisons. 67.8% of all released prisoners are re-arrested within three years of release with 87.3% recidivism at Hennepin County detention center, Jail.
Incarceration and recidivism most directly affect non-white and poor individuals, reflecting the “disproportionate minority contact” of the criminal justice system, and the link between poverty and criminal justice system involvement. Communities and policy-makers alike are asking how this cycle of failure and escalating costs can be interrupted.
One Chaplain’s Successful Pathway to Restoration
With 14 years developing a scalable prison restoration cognitive, evidence based model that works for insiders and parolees, let me reveal to you the inside of God’s glorious model of restoration. I use an integrated social learning and cognitive criminal behavior model change framework that provides direction and structure guiding offenders in a successful change journey. The goals and outcomes defined are sequential and cumulative as they must be achieved in order for effective and sustainable change to take place:
- Bring awareness of the reasons why an offender’s change is needed. Awareness is the goal/outcome of early communications related to an offender’s change to live a life free from bondage of incarceration.
- Create desire of the offender’s decision to engage and participate in the change. Desire is the motivators for participating in a change
- Provide knowledge of how to change. Knowledge is firstly how to change (what to do during the transition) and secondly how to perform effectively in the future state (skills and behaviors needed to support the change).
- Realize ability to implement the change at the required performance level. Ability is the goal/outcome of habits, mentoring, and time to make change successful.
- Establish reinforcement to ensure change sticks. Reinforcement is the goal/outcome of adoption measurement, corrective action and recognition of successful change through celebrations, rewards and recognition, feedback, corrective actions, visible performance measurement, and accountability mechanisms.
I also assess each offenders’ criminogenic needs of major risk factors highly associated with criminal conduct, including antisocial values and beliefs, personality traits, family dysfunction, low self-control, and substance abuse.
University of Cincinnati researchers said “programs that target at least four criminogenic needs can reduce recidivism by 30 percent.”
I also conduct a Spiritual Health Assessment in assessing quality of spiritual roots and spiritual maturity. In this we assess offender’s spiritual condition in loving God with all their heart, soul and mind, their personal faith habits in loving God, and their corporate faith habits in loving their neighbor.
Pathway to Restoration
We train offenders through a Pathway to Restoration by integrating social learning and cognitive criminal behavior model with the Prosci ADKAR® change framework with the pursuit of Godliness triangle model.
…to be transformed into the likeness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit within the community to be free from the bondage of crime
Pursuit of Godliness is a deliberately self-imposed set of ten personal and corporate Holy Habit pathways tailored to four levels of spiritual maturity. Personalized set of specific repetitious actions of applied biblically guided spiritual exercises abide the offender in a cognitive relational attitude of devotion for God in a Christ centered lifestyle of moral character and a habitual rightness conduct of Godliness. These Holy Habits develop “Sacred Rhythms” that nurture spiritual health and fosters moral spiritual growth in the pursuit of Holiness for the sole purpose to be transformed into the likeness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit within the community to be free from the bondage of crime.
…offender’s sustained success rests in finding their spiritual purpose and through practicing holy habits, because discipline without purpose is drudgery.
Through our Pathway to Restoration model, we have found offender’s sustained success rests in finding their spiritual purpose and through practicing holy habits, because discipline without purpose is drudgery. Offender’s responsivity success lies in the utilization of the integrated social learning and cognitive criminal behavior model because it provides direction and structure when guiding offenders in a successful change journey. Offenders don’t need any special talent or equipment. God has given to each one of us “everything we need for life and Godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
In the end, what better complement is there than to say “there goes another Godly offender” restored back to God’s original design.
Rev. Rick Chilton is a high risk Minnesota Prison Chaplain working with the incarcerated Federal, State and local community focused on spiritual restoration with cognitive, evidence based approach in achieving a sustained, self-sufficient, Grace filled transition back into society. Rev. Rick Chilton leads as the executive director of Restoration Prison Ministries, a Christ-centered ministry that restores and improves the lives of individuals impacted by incarceration. Rick is an independent IT Security and Forensics consultant.