Please do not copy without permission. The Center for Social Research, Inc. The MPS degree is open to inmates who hold a college degree and references from chaplains and other inmates attesting to their religious commitment.
Holders of the MPS degree become chaplain's assistants throughout the prison system, as they augment pastoral counseling, teaching and social services in the system for the remainder of their prison sentence. An exploratory study on the impact of this community-based religious education program on recidivism compared 54 of the MPS inmates to non-MPS inmates who were released from prison in a somewhat similar time period. Once they leave prison the MPS graduates continue to work in ministry related positions in the community.
The MPS program, although it begins in a prison setting, represents many of the best features of community corrections and restorative community justice. The MPS program ought to be studied more and perhaps extended. The Center is located in the Washington DC area. Introduction At the turn of the twentieth century Wilbert Webster White, believing the Bible to be the story of faith that shapes the identity of Christians, founded a seminary in New York city called the Biblical Seminary which placed the Bible at the center of its teaching curriculum Webber, pps The seminary was financially supported by laity and alumni who specialized in serving immigrant, poor, and missionary communities.
In direct response to its constituency, which lacked the money and resources to build personal libraries and attend professional schools, the seminary created an alternative inductive, action-reflection methodology for its pedagogical base.
The faculty at the school trained its graduates how to enter a poor community, and help the community to reflect upon and understand its own context, and then use the indigenous resources of the community to transform it into a better place.
In the seminary changed its name to New York Theological Seminary NYTS and expanded its urban identity to include an institutional commitment to civil rights. George Williams Webber became president in at a time when the school faced serious financial problems that threatened to close it.
Webber reoriented the school to its founding values, and developed a "pilgrim" faculty that was committed to working, often for a small remuneration, with minority leaders on the peripheries of society.
Webber attracted people like himself, mission-oriented, compassionate and often with elite educations, to provide high-level, practical, community-based theological education for urban leaders who could neither afford to leave the city nor pay for tuition at elite schools.
In Ed Muller, a chaplain at Greenhaven prison in New York and Karel Boersma, a pastor and volunteer at Greenhaven, came to Webber with a request that the seminary create a curricular extension program for incarcerated Christians and Muslims of strong faith who had a desire to provide pastoral care to their fellow inmates inside the prison.
The two pastors knew from experience that the pastoral care needs of inmates were so overwhelming that outside and prison chaplains could not address them all. Webber agreed and collaborated with Rev. The first degree program was held in Faced, however, with slim financial margins the seminary felt that it was unable to continue the program.
To save the program Webber, who was retiring from his Presidency, agree to become the unpaid director of the MPS. Webber argued that the program symbolized everything the faculty and the seminary claimed to be and should not be threatened simply for financial reasons.
Russell succeeded Webber's presidency; M. The current selection of students is based on a highly competitive application and reference process.
The MPS is open to 15 inmates each year who hold a college degree and references from chaplains and other inmates attesting to their religious commitment. Webber receives about 75 applications from inmates throughout the New York prison system each year. To help him select 15 inmates who both read and write well, and show a deep willingness to turn their lives around, Webber asks the inmate alumni on the admission's committee to recommend the most suitable candidates.
Inmate knowledge of other inmates is critical to the selection process because incarcerated alumni do not want the inside reputation of the program downgraded by poorly functioning students. Too many admissions "mistakes" would jeopardize the program's viability inside the prison. Once accepted, the inmate is transferred to Sing Sing prison where the MPS takes place over a twelve month period.
Upon receiving their graduate degree the inmates return to prisons throughout the system where they serve the remainder of their prison sentence as assistants to the prison chaplains. In their professional ministerial role they augment the pastoral counseling, teaching and social services provided by other ministers in the prison system. Classes take place one day a week in the prison. The remainder of the week is given over to study, reflection, and homework.
In addition to the MPS faculty a team of highly educated and community minded volunteers from the Rye Presbyterian Church in New York hold a social gathering with the students every week in the evening after classes.
To graduate MPS students must simultaneously complete a year of field work and a year of pastoral counseling. Students must meet standard professional requirements for their field work and counseling. In addition to course work and counseling, the students write an integration paper at the end of the year. The NYTS action-reflection model requires a social learning process that uses an inductive methodology Pazmino, p This kind of learning enables students to deconstruct the social systems that facilitate crime and incarceration.
Understanding one's life circumstance from the dual perspective of personal and social morality empowers the student with skills to transform both the self and society. Ethics, church history, theology, and pastoral counseling course work engages and revolves around the sacred texts that shape the identity of one's religious community, typically the Bible and the Koran.
Students are taught a variety of hermeneutical tools to exegete and interpret scripture and daily life. Racism, sexism, and classism are societal oppressions that are routinely addressed. Regardless of their faith affiliation, Christian, Muslim and Jewish students reflect upon each other's sacred texts and religious experiences. Students learn how to talk across differences and how to transform a moment of frustration and conflict into a moment of constructive learning.
When asked how he develops curriculum, Webber replied: We give them what they need to know. What you need to know is how to question. Yes, they need to know a little Luther and Calvin, but in this moment they really need to know "how my faith transforms me" today.
So, we have a whole semester of contemporary religion in the United States. We are going to cover pentecostalism, Islam, African-American churches and Hispanic denominations. Webber argues that key to the classroom is the table the students sit around: In the NYTS classroom students are given a context and a safe place to ask questions they never asked before. The conversations are exhausting and overwhelming, students get tired, but they don't want to leave at the end of the day.
Webber came to realize that he needed to spend one whole day each week at Sing Sing to provide continuity between classes and reflection time. In that space, he comes to personally know his students, their stories and their prison contexts.
Outside of the direct contact, Webber spends several days a month raising money for books and faculty travel costs. When asked how he has managed to fund this program for over a decade, Webber replies, "It is a very good story. When I tell people how these guys' lives are changed, people give.
The media love our story and they tell it well too. Webber credits significant social skill attainment to the interaction students have with the MPS faculty and volunteers. Of note is the Rye Presbyterian Church's multiple year commitment to the program.
Over time, volunteers accrue learning and the capacity to assist the inmates with self-assessment, relationship building and social skills. The Department of Correction transfers MPS graduates from Sing Sing to other prisons where they are assigned to chaplain's offices and infirmaries.
In addition, their counseling skills are sought by pre-release programs. Other inmates request special programs, e. Alumni then, are able to meet the ministerial needs and goals that precipitated the program. The MPS Program and Recidivism Clearly, it is of great benefit to the prison system and to the prison chaplains to have professionally trained men ministering to their fellow inmates in the prison system.
But how do the MPS inmates fare once they are released from prison? Does the MPS help them to turn their lives around, live meaningful lives, and contribute to society without engaging in further criminal activity? To seek a preliminary answer to these questions we conducted an exploratory study of the impact of the MPS program on the recidivism of the men who had participated in the program. We used these New York inmates for our comparison group because we were already collected recidivism data on them for a separate study of the impact of in-prison religious programming on recidivism O'Connor et al.
Because our two groups were released over different time periods we controlled for the length of time that each person was released.
First of all we looked at just the MPS group. The majority of those re-arrests 10 occurred after the individuals had been out of prison for more than three years. During the first year of release none of the MPS people were re-arrested. To do this we had to limit our analysis to the first 28 months of release from prison. We did this because the non-MPS group were on the street for a much shorter time, and only had a maximum of 28 months in which they could be re-arrested.
Logistic regression analysis of the month data, while controlling for the varying amounts of follow-up time months free , revealed a pattern of re-arrest that differed significantly for the MPS and non-MPS groups.
Table 1 displays the logistic regression results. The non-MPS people were much more likely to be re-arrested in the early months out, while MPS people were more likely to be re-arrested in the latter part of the month window of opportunity. In fact, no re-arrests of MPS individuals occurred until the 12th month after release.