Reading in prison, the good stuff, can build a strong foundation for future reformation, as this article from Philanthropy reports, and a point I made in depth, in my book, The Criminal’s Search for God, Sources. For links to my books at Amazon go to

An excerpt from the Philanthropy article.

Every Tuesday evening, a group of inmates at Florida’s Tomoka Correctional Institution gathers in a circle, heads bowed, holding hands. They pray that God would use the next few hours to spread His love deep within their hearts. This love comes to them through a surprising avenue: classic literature.

The syllabus includes stories of hard choices and redemption. In a selection from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, dejected ex-con Jean Valjean receives grace from a Catholic bishop and turns his life around. The Sunflower—by Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of multiple Nazi concentration camps—reflects on the limits of forgiveness. In Amazing Grace, slave-ship captain and brute John Newton encountered forgiveness so boundless that he left his lucrative career and helped to end British Empire slavery.

One inmate later expressed to the discussion leader how much the readings meant to the participants. “Guys still think about and discuss those stories on a daily basis,” he wrote, months after the class ended.  “Not one week goes by that someone doesn’t use [a character] in our group talks.”

This volunteer-led program is an offshoot of a larger ministry, Horizon Communities in Prisons. Horizon was started by Texan businessman Ike Griffin and his wife, Mickey, who began volunteering in prisons together early in their marriage. They heard of an experimental program in Brazil encouraging behavioral change through communal living and accountability. With some small foundation support, the Griffins started the first Horizon Community at Tomoka; it soon spread to nine other prisons in Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

When inmates join Horizon, they move to a dorm with the other program members. Everyone must demonstrate a willingness to change. Before they’ll be considered, they must show for a period of months that they can live peaceably with others. Many men testify that these prison communities become like the families they never had. Each is expected to behave responsibly, and dishonest actions are addressed firmly, with love. The goal is healthy relationships with others.

Retrieved January 26, 2015 from