A University of Iowa study finds former prison inmates are more likely to stay out of trouble if they get involved with churches and other faith-based groups. U-of-I psychiatry professor Stephan Arndt says an ex-inmate’s success often depends on the help they get for problems like substance abuse, a lack of job skills or just rebuilding their social network. He says when people get out of prison, they often have only a few options: returning to their old friends where they ran into trouble in the first place or they can learn to make new friends. Professor Arndt says if those new friends are part of a church community, the former inmate will likely be better off in a variety of ways. About 400 people are released from Iowa prisons every month. Arndt says faith-based groups play an informal but significant role in helping released offenders rebuild their lives. The U-of-I study team surveyed 15 faith-based organizations (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) and Arndt says they were -not- surprised to find the groups “do more than they think they do and more than outsiders think they do” to give hope and guidance to recently-released ex-cons.Arndt is director of the U-of-I Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation. He says faith-based groups help adults make a new start through study and discussion groups, choir, one-on-one spiritual counseling, and sports and social activities. They also provide practical help such as rental assistance, food and clothing banks, and transportation.
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