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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Michael D. Crews, Secretary

Introduction

Measuring Inmate Involvement
and Its Consequences

The primary intent of the first report was to determine what percentage of the inmate population participated in Chaplaincy programming in the course of any given month. The initial finding was that approximately 38% of the inmate population that could attend a group meeting in any given month did so for a religious meeting or activity. This percentage, within three percentage points of the original finding, is consistent over time and is a good measure of inmate interest in Chaplaincy programming. Chaplaincy programming has a tremendous draw among inmates.

Chaplaincy programming is more than worship services and religious education classes. It now includes a variety of personal growth studies, ethical formation, practical skills development and support groups. Chaplains and volunteers continue to experiment with programming options and much-needed topics. These areas include a variety of preparation for release issues, family life, and even classes supporting educational achievements. Nevertheless, the importance of the popularity of Chaplaincy programs is still relatively under-reported and may provide an important vehicle to deliver meaningful programming to inmates.

Over three years have passed since the original report was published in January of 2002. Sufficient time has elapsed to submit a secondary longitudinal report on these subjects. This follow-up report is primarily focused on the subsequent behavior as it relates to two groups of inmates who participated in the original “Impact…” report. They are (1) those inmates who were released in FY 2001-02; and (2) those inmates who remained in continuous custody of the FDC.

Chaplains in the FDC believe that helping inmates in their spiritual growth and maturity makes a positive contribution to a safer society. This report looks at inmates who were participating in Chaplaincy programs in the first quarter of FY 2001-02 and compares them with inmates incarcerated at the same time, but with no participation in chapel programs. Those that remain in FDC custody were measured for their subsequent Disciplinary Report (DR) rate. At question was whether these inmates continued to show improved behavior as measured in DR rate. The results support the Chaplains interest in making a positive difference. Among the inmates that were not released, the ones who attended chapel programming had a lower rate of receiving DRs than non-attendees.

For three months in 2001, Chaplains at 46 FDC major institutions tracked the inmate attendance at Chaplaincy Services sign-in events. During the measurement period, the total average inmate population for the FDC was 72,157. The figures from this report were drawn from the average of 50,026 inmates in the institutions that were in open population and able to attend religious activities at major institutions. The other 22,131 inmates were in Administrative Confinement, Close Management, Disciplinary Confinement, Protective Management, or Work Release and were ineligible to participate or were otherwise unavailable for measurement.

An addition to this report that was not in the original 2002 report is a recommitment rate for those inmates who were released in FY 2001-02. This identifies those inmates who showed up in the system due to a conviction for a new offense within two years of release from custody. This does not include inmates returned on technical violations.

The inmates measured were those released in FY 2001-02. A total of 26,299 inmates were released during this time. Ten thousand two hundred thirty-three of the total releases were inmates who were also in the original study on the “Impact of Inmate Participation in Chapel Programs.” Of the 10,233 released, 2,176 came back to Florida prisons on recommitment for new offenses. One thousand four hundred forty-three recommitted inmates were inmates who had been measured with attendance in Chaplaincy programming at “0” times per month; 450 recommitted inmates were from the category of 1-3 times per month attendance in Chaplaincy programming; 200 recommitments were from the 4 – 9 times per month attendance category and 83 were from the 10 or more times category. The initial figures indicate that participation in Chaplaincy programming may contribute as much as a 26% relative percentage difference in recommitment rate between those who did not attend any Chaplaincy programming in a month and those who attended 10 or more times in a month. Attendance in all categories displayed a lower recommitment rate than the rate for non-attendees.

One final addition to this report is the inclusion of an opinion survey from the inmates. A one-page opinion survey was distributed to 550 inmates. These inmates were also in the 2001 measurement group. The inmates were called in to the Chaplain’s office and given the 1-page survey to read and complete. Four hundred fifty-four opinion surveys were completed and form the basis of the conclusion for the survey results.

Prison is not a one-dimensional environment where Chaplaincy programming is the only influence upon an inmate. Prison life provides numerous contributory influences and sometimes conflicting influences. Though personal opinions are highly subjective, nevertheless the survey provides an opportunity for the inmate to identify what the determinant factors are for changed/improved behavior. When inmates were asked to identify the influences that contributed to their own improved behavior, they consistently ranked participation in Chaplaincy Programming as important. The personal assessments by the inmates along with the statistical data have been factored into the conclusions.

Religious programming not only is an essential element to control inmate idleness, it is a cost effective means in providing a safer, more manageable environment both in the prisons and in the communities to which inmates are released.

Definitions

“Bound” (margin of error ±): “Bound” relates to accuracy. Target size must be decided; that is the maximum difference between m (the truth) and average (estimate of the truth) that can be tolerated. The level of accuracy will determine the size of the target that must be examined.

Comparison group: This includes inmates that were in DC custody during the same time that the original study took place. The comparison group has as many similarities as possible to the measured group in order to provide a credible comparison. In this study, only those inmates who had a custody designation that permitted them to participate in group activities were measured.

Confidence Level” “Confidence Level” refers to the likelihood of hitting the target. Given the size of selected target (“bound”) what is the proportion of times you want to capture m ? How confident do you want to be that you did hit the target specified by the “bound?”

Disciplinary Report Rate : This is the average rate of disciplinary reports received during a measured period of time for the study and comparison groups.

Institutional Adjustment: Institutional Adjustment refers to the frequency with which an inmate gets disciplinary reports. The more frequent an inmate receives Disciplinary Reports, the poorer the inmate’s personal adjustment to the institution.

Opinion Survey: An opinion survey provides subjective input from a measured group.

Population size : This is maximum pool from which an opinion survey can be taken. In this case it represented the actual number of inmates who attended at least one chapel program from the original study and still remained in prison in Florida . There are 6,634 inmates from the original study that have not been released from prison. This body of inmates was the population size from which the random sampling for the opinion survey was drawn. The sampling did not include any released offenders.

Recommitment Rate : The recommitment rate is the percentage who returned to the system within two years of release due to a new offense. It does not include inmates returned to prison for technical violations.

Sample Size determinants – Three things must be known to determine how many inmate responses are needed to get a reliable opinion survey. These are maximum “bound”; standard deviation; and desired level of confidence.

Standard deviation or Estimated historical proportion: The deviation rate is the known historical non-compliance rate.