Baylor University Study Affirms Prison Fellowship International In-Prison Program Mission 

May 22, 2023

Virtuous Effects Found on Prisoner’s Mental Health After Religion Participation

WASHINGTON (May 22, 2023) – A new Baylor University study provides evidence of the virtuous effects of religion on mental health among prisoners, affirming the mission of Prison Fellowship International’s (PFI) in-prison program, The Prisoner’s Journey® (TPJ).

“This study confirms what we have believed for a long time,” said David Van Patten, Chief Operating Officer of PFI. “That a prisoner’s involvement in religious programming has a transformative effect on their beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Now we have empirical evidence that prisoners are becoming less violent and exercising greater self-control through programs like PFI’s around the world.”

The study, conducted in Monteria Prison, Colombia, found that prisoner participation in religious programs and practices leads to the development of positive virtues including forgiveness, self-control and gratitude as well as a reduction in anger, depression and anxiety. Findings also included the inverse relationship between the virtues and the negative emotional states, both other- and self-directed.

“This study contributes to the criminal justice literature by adding positive evidence of the virtuous effect of religion on mental health among incarcerated individuals,” said Dr. Sung Joon Jang, research professor of criminology and co-director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). “We found that both public and private religious behaviors were positively associated with the virtues. ”

These results replicate other studies conducted by Jang and Baylor ISR on TPJ. Designed to transform the lives of prisoners by introducing them to restorative principles taught by Jesus, who was also a prisoner, TPJ is centered on the book of Mark in the Bible and is facilitated by trained inmates or volunteers.

Jang and Baylor University’s Dr. Byron Johnson’s first phase of their longitudinal evaluation of TPJ has been completed and published in 2021. A new multi-year, quasi-experimental study of Prison Fellowship International’s program will kick off later this year.


About Prison Fellowship International
Since 1979, PFI 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. Learn more at

CONTACT: Ella Cueva, 703-554-8670, [email protected]

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