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Program Profile: InnerChange Freedom Initiative (Minnesota)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on April 07, 2014

Program Summary

A voluntary, faith-based prisoner reentry program that attempts to prepare inmates for reintegration into the community, employment, family, and other significant relationships through educational, values-based programming. The program is rated Promising. Participants were rearrested, reconvicted, and reincarcerated less than the comparison group. There was no statistically significant impact on revocations for a technical violation between the groups.

Program Description

Program Goals
InnerChange Freedom Initiative (Minnesota) is a voluntary, faith-based prisoner reentry program that attempts to reduce recidivism by preparing inmates for reintegration from prison to the community. The program seeks to promote positive values and address the criminogenic needs of participants by educating inmates in a variety of areas, including substance abuse, victim-impact awareness, life-skills development, cognitive skill development, moral development, education, community reentry, and religion. Although the program promotes Christianity, the InnerChange program is open to both Christians and non-Christians. Additionally, the InnerChange program matches each offender with a mentor in the community and engages the community by involving local churches in program activities, with the belief that such support and ties to the community will reduce the recidivism rate of participants.

Overall the InnerChange program hypothesizes that the program can obtain its goal of reduced recidivism through a variety of program components: 

  1. using Christian philosophies that promote a crime-free lifestyle and prosocial behaviors
  2. addressing the criminogenic needs of program participants,
  3. including high-risk offenders,
  4. housing program participants together, and
  5. ensuring that program participants receive a “continuum of care” so that their guidance and support does not stop once they are released from prison but instead continues into the community.

Program Theory
The InnerChange program is based on research that shows interventions that target the risks, needs, and responsivity (RNR) of offenders, as well as those that include a continuum of care, are typically effective at changing problem behavior and reducing recidivism (Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Holsinger 2006; Dowden, Antonowicz, and Andrews 2003). The RNR model (Andrews and Bonta 2003; Andrews, Bonta, and Hoge 1990) includes three core principles:

  1. Risk Principle: The level of services should be matched to the level of offender. High-risk offenders should receive more intensive services; low-risk offenders should receive minimal services.
  2. Need Principle: Target criminogenic needs with services—that is, target those factors that are associated with criminal behavior. Such factors might include substance abuse, procriminal attitudes, and criminal associates. Do not target other, noncriminogenic factors (such as emotional distress, self-esteem issues) unless they act as a barrier to changing criminogenic factors.
  3. Responsivity Principle: The ability and learning style of the offender should determine the style and mode of intervention. Research has shown the general effectiveness of using social learning and cognitive-behavioral style interventions.
The InnerChange program has incorporated aspects of RNR research in its program. For example, the program targets higher-risk offenders, is geared toward addressing the criminogenic needs of program participants, and ensures that program participants receive a continuum of care.

Program Components
The InnerChange program is offered to male inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF), a medium-security prison. Although the program is privately funded and largely operated by volunteers from local churches and religious organizations, the security, housing, and other general inmate expenses are the responsibility of the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MnDOC). The program typically includes 40 men at a time and begins about 18 to 24 months before participants’ release.

The program includes three phases, with Phases 1 and 2 completed in prison during which the men live in the same housing unit. Phase 3 occurs after release. Phase 1 typically lasts 12 months and serves as the foundation of the program. During this phase, the InnerChange curriculum is taught during a 3-hour instruction session in the morning, followed by an afternoon session focusing on education or work, and an additional programming session in the evening. The curriculum in Phase 1 is divided into 4 quarters: quarter 1 introduces participants to the core values of InnerChange and teaches important cognitive and moral skills; quarters 2 and 3 stress the importance of offenders’ accepting responsibility for their deviant acts, while also covering important reentry and addiction topics; quarter 4 educates participants on chemical dependency and steps to prevent relapse.

Phase 2 typically lasts at least 6 months, during which the men spend their days working within the facility and evenings attending classes. During this phase, each man is matched with a member of the community who serves as his mentor for the remainder of the program. In addition to weekly meetings with their mentors, offenders work with InnerChange counselors to discuss their reentry plan and establish individualized goals. Phase 2 ends when the offender is released from prison.

Phase 3, the reentry phase, occurs once the offender has been released from prison and lasts 12 months. During this phase the offender’s mentor, as well as other InnerChange staff, assist the offender with the transition process, specifically aiding in his development of positive prosocial relationships. It is believed that developing relationships with individuals who are positively involved in their communities will create a positive environment for the offender and further aid in the transition process. Moreover, InnerChange attempts to counteract the struggles of housing and employment by working with various housing and employment agencies on behalf of the men in the program.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Overall, Duwe and King (2012) found that InnerChange Freedom Initiative participants had lower recidivism rates than nonparticipants for three of the four recidivism measures. Additionally, varying levels of recidivism rates were found for program participants. For example, completers had lower recidivism rates than dropouts, and participants who continued to meet with their mentors had lower rates than participants who did not meet with their mentors at all or met with them only while in prison.

Differences between the treatment and control groups were found for rearrest, as 42 percent of InnerChange participants were rearrested, compared with 59 percent of the comparison group. When controlling for group differences, the analysis showed that participation in the InnerChange program significantly decreased the hazard ratio by 26 percent for rearrest.

The InnerChange program also impacted reconviction, as 25 percent of the experimental group were reconvicted, compared with 44 percent of the comparison group. When controlling for group differences, the analysis showed that participation in the InnerChange program significantly decreased the hazard ratio by 35 percent for reconvictions.

Reincarceration was also impacted by the InnerChange program: 8 percent of the program participants were reincarcerated, compared with 22 percent of the comparison group. When controlling for group differences, the analysis showed that participation in the InnerChange program significantly decreased the hazard ratio by 40 percent for reconvictions.

Although 33 percent of participants in the InnerChange program received a revocation for a technical violation, compared with 40 percent in the comparison group, when controlling for group differences, the analysis showed that participation in the InnerChange program did not have a statistically significant impact on revocations.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Duwe and King (2012) used a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the impact of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative program on recidivism. To do so, recidivism outcomes of male InnerChange participants from the Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF)–Lino Lakes between August 2003 and December 2009 were matched to a comparison group of nonparticipants released from Minnesota prisons during the same period. The number of participants released from MCF–Lino Lakes during this period included 421 male offenders, whereas the number of nonparticipants released from Minnesota prisons during this same time period included 18,462 male offenders. To control for recidivism risk, the authors administered the Level of Service Inventory—Revised (LSI–R); however, some offenders did not receive the LSI–R before release from prison, which caused the sample size to decrease for both the experimental and control groups. As a result, the experimental group declined to 366 InnerChange participants and the comparison group included 13,188 offenders who would have been eligible for InnerChange but did not participate.

Recidivism was defined as rearrest, reconviction, or reincarceration for a new sentence, or revocation for a technical violation. Recidivism data for all offenders was collected through December 2010, allowing at least a 1-year follow-up period. Data was derived from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Correctional Operations Management System database. In an effort to reduce selection bias, the study used propensity score matching (PSM), which estimates what would have happened to program participants had they not participated in the program. Although PSM tends to work better with a large sample size, the study was able to address this limitation by pulling together a large number of cases for the propensity score analysis. Propensity scores were calculated for the experimental and comparison groups. After the scores for all offenders were obtained, InnerChange participants were matched to nonparticipants who had the closest propensity score; matches were found for all InnerChange participants. The study then used a Cox regression model to evaluate the impact of the InnerChange program on all recidivism measures, while controlling for group differences.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Duwe, Grant, and Michelle King. 2012. “Can Faith-Based Correctional Programs Work? An Outcome Evaluation of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Minnesota.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 57(7):813–14.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Andrews, Donald A., and James Bonta. 2003. The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (Third Edition). Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson.

Andrews, Donald A., James Bonta, and Robert D. Hoge. 1990. “Classification for Effective Rehabilitation: Rediscovering Psychology.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 17:19–52.

Dowden, Craig, Daniel H. Antonowicz, and Donald A. Andrews. 2003. “The Effectiveness of Relapse Prevention With Offenders: A Meta-Analysis.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 47:516–28.

Duwe, Grant, and Byron R. Johnson. 2013. “Estimating the Benefits of a Faith-Based Correctional Program.” International Journal of Criminology and Sociology 2:227–39.

Johnson, Bryon R., and David B. Larson. 2003. The InnerChange Freedom Initiative: A Preliminary Evaluation of a Faith-Based Prison Program. Philadelphia, Pa.: Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, University of Pennsylvania.

Lipton, Douglas S., Frank S. Pearson, Charles M. Cleland, and Dorline S. Yee. 2008. “The Effects of Therapeutic Communities and Milieu Therapy on Recidivism: Meta-Analytic Findings From the Correctional Drug Abuse Treatment Effectiveness (CDATE) Study. In J. McGuire (ed.), Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment: Effective Programs and Polices to Reduce Reoffending. Chichester, England: Wilety.

Lowenkamp, Christopher T., Edward J. Latessa, and Alexander M. Holsinger. 2006. “The Risk Principle in Action: What Have We Leaned From 13,676 Offenders and 97 Correctional Programs?” Crime and Delinquency 52:77–93.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Incarceration-based Therapeutic Communities for Adults
This practice uses a comprehensive, residential drug treatment program model for treating substance-abusing and addicted inmates to foster changes in attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors related to substance use. The practice is rated Promising in reducing recidivism rates after release for participants in therapeutic communities.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Correctional, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Aftercare/Reentry, Individual Therapy, Mentoring, Vocational/Job Training, Therapeutic Communities

Targeted Population: Prisoners, High Risk Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Grant Duwe
Research Director
Minnesota Department of Corrections
1450 energy Park Drive, Suite 200
St. Paul MN 55108-5219