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Prison Seminary Program Expands with $2M Donation

For those who believe religion can lower recidivism, a college-level seminary curriculum launched in California's prisons is a godsend.

The Urban Ministry Institute (UMI) began as an experiment at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, about an hour southeast of Los Angeles, four years ago. Now, as a partnership between World Impact, Inc. and Prison Fellowship, it's being expanded to 18 prisons in the state and oared to nearly 900 prisoners, both men and women.

In 2011, the UMI graduated 10 prisoners—awarding each a certificate in Christian Leadership studies they can use to pursue graduate degrees in theology– and expected to graduate another 14 in 2012. The curriculum then spread to five California prisons besides Norco and about 220 prisoners. And the program has also been launched in state prisons in Michigan, Florida and Colorado.

A Christian real-estate mogul in Malibu. Wayne Hughes Jr.. has now given $2 million to UMI since visiting a similar seminary program at the Angola prison in Louisiana. and the I.      program was scheduled to expand in fall 2012.

Though studies say it takes three years to determine any program's success in lowering recidivism. California prison officials are apparently true believers.

"Amy program that offers (prisoners) an opportunity to gain some introspection and self-study, to change their attitude toward life, is a huge step toward making their lives constructive when they leave prison," said California Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Sessa.

Prisoners who want to participate must get approval from their prison chaplain, and they should expect 40 to 50 hours of homework for each of the program's 16 study units.

Source: The Associated Press,

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