Baylor University Research and Study

The Prisoner’s Journey® has been changing lives in prisons around the world since 2014. From the beginning, qualitative stories and testimonies of program impact had been shared, but we wanted empirical proof to show that the program was creating lasting life change.

In 2021, Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion was commissioned to conduct a comprehensive, longitudinal evaluation of the program. Empirical evidence was found that proved that this program truly transforms prisoners’ lives. Findings shows that through increasing religious engagement, The Prisoner’s Journey increases indicators of successful rehabilitation and actions that typically lead to positive culture change in prisons.

Finding One

Respect and Obedience

Program participation increases forgiveness, accountability, gratitude and self-control and reduced feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. The program increased the likelihood of changed behavior and decreased displays of volatile behavior. Program participants become more respectful and obedient, leading to a "culture change” in prisons.

Finding Two

Interpersonal Aggression

Prisoners who participated in The Prisoner's Journey increased self-control, forgiveness and gratitude, while reducing the risk of engaging in aggression toward other prisoners.

Finding Three


Program participants were better at taking responsibility, as they could acknowledge their wrongs and fault. Heightened responsibility-taking helps prisoners rebuild agency, establish positive relationships with family and avoid committing crimes post-release.

Finding Four


The Prisoner's Journey participants undergo changes that create profound implications upon released. Graduates recidivate less frequently than other ex-offenders, are more optimistic about reintegration and are more likely to adopt a mindset of responsibility toward employment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is this study?

A longitudinal evaluation of the impact of The Prisoner’s Journey program on prisoner rehabilitation, conducted by researchers at the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion.

What is The Prisoner's Journey?

The Prisoner’s Journey is an in-prison course designed to transform the lives of prisoners, from the inside out, by introducing them to restorative principles taught by Jesus, who was also a prisoner. It is centered on the book of Mark in the Bible and is facilitated by trained inmates or volunteers. The program invites participants to consider the teachings of Jesus. They are also asked to reflect on their wrongdoing, emphasizing that the “reason there’s something wrong with the world is because there’s something wrong with us.” They come to look at their choices and actions through the filter of Jesus’s actions, example and words.

When was the study conducted?

This is the first study of its kind to examine faith-based programming in prisons on a multinational basis. In fact, very few studies exist about prison populations in developing countries. Additionally, Prison Fellowship International commissioning, cooperating with and funding this university research is a major contribution to the global study of prisoners and rehabilitation.

Where did the research take place?

The first phase was conducted during a 40-month period from January 2018 to April 2021.

Who was studied?

Seven prisons in South Africa and Colombia.

What were the key findings?

Nearly 900 prisoners. The average participant age was 35. Their charges were distributed across violence, property, sex, drug and other offenses in both experimental and control groups. Most participants were from Christian backgrounds, but positive outcomes emerged for participants from other faiths or without faith.

What is the significance of The Prisoner's Journey and this study?

Participants in this first phase of the study were largely Christian (more than 80% identified as either Catholic or Protestant). Participants who identified as “no” or “other” religion comprised more than 10%.