Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

10 Incredibly Inspiring Prison Programs

For many years, hard labor and prison ministries were the only forms of rehabilitation and support a prisoner could get. Since then, prisons have opened up their doors to non-profit organizations, education programs and rehabilitation services that are dedicated to helping prisoners live better lives and prepare for the challenges of reentering society. Here are 10 incredibly inspiring prison programs:

  1. Prisoner’s Reading Encouragement Project: The Prisoners’ Reading Encouragement Project (PREP) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to enhancing literacy and education for inmates. This 11-year-old program also strives to teach the public about the educational needs of correctional facilities, as well as establish scholarship funds for inmates’ tuition and textbooks while in prison. PREP collects new and gently used books, videotape, audiotapes for prison libraries and inmates enrolled in courses or doing independent study. This inspiring prison program has donated more than 55,000 books to 23 different prisons in New York, bringing literacy and education to eager inmates.
  2. Just Detention International: Just Detention International is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to ending widespread sexual abuse of male and female prisoners and providing resources and support for survivors of prison rape. Since 1980, this Los Angeles-based organization has been working with policymakers, advocates, corrections leaders and prison rape survivors to end this devastating problem, as well as ensure government accountability for prison rapes. JDI also strives to educate the community about sexual violence in detention and how the system continually fails to protect inmates.
  3. Human Kindness Foundation: The Human Kindness Foundation is a non-profit organization that created the inspiring Prison-Ashram Project. This North Carolina-based program is committed to encouraging prisoners and prison staff to recognize their strength and purpose as human beings and help them behave accordingly. The teachings of the Prison-Ashram Project are centered on "simple living, service and personal spiritual practice," which the founders believe is more achievable for inmates who are free of distractions and outside influences. The program also encourages inmates to take responsibility for their prison and communities, as well as focus on their behavior and actions towards others.
  4. Fortune Society: Fortune Society is a non-profit social service and advocacy organization that’s committed to helping inmates reenter society after prison and promoting alternatives to incarceration. Fortune Society helps incarcerated or formerly incarcerated inmates through education, drop-in services, employment services, family services, health services, housing assistance, substance abuse treatment and many other rehabilitative services that are essential to their success in and out of prison. This program serves nearly 3,000 men and women at three New York area service centers.
  5. Prison Fellowship: Prison Fellowship is a national, non-profit organization created by the former Special Counsel for President Nixon, Charles Colson, who was incarcerated for Watergate-related charges. After serving seven months in prison, Colson launched Prison Fellowship to help prisoners develop or rebuild a relationship with Christ. Prison Fellowship accomplishes this goal through Transformational Ministry, which allows local churches and volunteers to reach out to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families. This program also helps prisoners reconcile and strengthen their relationship with family members, friends and their community.
  6. Prison S.M.A.R.T.: Prison S.M.A.R.T. is a program sponsored by the International Association for Human Values, which strives to enhance the lives of all prisoners, correctional employees and people working within the criminal justice system through stress management and rehabilitative training. Participants will learn how to reduce stress, heal trauma and handle negative emotions so that they can live a healthier life and give back to society in a positive way. IAHV Prison S.M.A.R.T. has worked with more than 350,000 participants, many of whom have experienced the benefits of increased self-esteem, realistic conflict resolution, decreased violent behavior and balanced sleep patterns.
  7. National Center on Institutions and Alternatives: NCIA is dedicated to helping all those involved in the criminal justice system, whether they are prisoners, ex-prisoners, correctional workers or family members of prisoners, through specialized advocacy, prevention and counseling programs. NCIA helps clients make the adjustment to confinement, as well as inquire on chances of parole or strategies to increase chance of parole. This inspiring organization also focuses on several different areas of prison reform, as well as youth and adult residential issues.
  8. Pathways to Hope-Prison Dog Project: Pathways to Hope’s Prison Dog Project provides inmates the opportunity to work with often unwanted dogs while developing a strong, loving bond with man’s best friend. Prisoners learn how to take care of another being, as well as give and receive love. The Prison Dog Project has made such a lasting impression on prisoners that many former convicts have even started their own grooming shops, training centers and worked with the handicapped and guide dogs.
  9. The Petey Greene Prison Assistance Program: The Petey Greene Prison Assistance Program is made up of a group of Princeton students and townspeople who go to nearby New Jersey prisons to teach and assist inmates in their reading, writing and math skills. The volunteers teach or tutor based on their interests and the inmates’ needs. This program has been operating for three years and has significantly helped inmates improve their skills and become confident in academics.
  10. Insight Prison Project: The Insight Prison Project is a rehabilitative program for prisoners that strives to prevent relapse into crime and improve public safety. Former convicts and professional teaching staffs will teach prisoners the skills and life tools needed to positively change their lives and become responsible, productive members of society when they’re released. Some areas of focus include: victim impact accountability, rational restructuring, emotional competency and intelligence and embodied integration.