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RLJ Program Goals
Restored Life Journeys has two main goals: (1) To reduce recidivism (re-offending) rates of Bridges to Life (BTL) program graduates; and (2) To facilitate the healing process for victims and offenders.

The first goal is achieved through offenders’ participation in and completion of the Bridges to Life 14-week process during which offenders and victims are brought together in a small group format with a facilitator. Prior to the BTL program being offered in Florida, achievement of this goal has been directly measured in Texas, through data collected and recorded by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as explained below.

The second goal is achieved through the dialogue between victim volunteers and offenders. Although there is no way to directly measure the benefit to victims, they often comment that they receive more benefit from the Bridges to Life process than they ever imagined.
Bridges To Life Program Evaluation
Both quantitative (data and statistics) and qualitative (reports from program participants) are used to evaluate the achievement of Bridges To Life’s goals.

Quantitative Evaluation
With the assistance of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), Bridges To Life tracks a large sample of offenders after they are released from prison, reviewing pertinent data on a semi-annual basis. This data allows BTL to keep an up-to-date record of offender participants and how many return to prison (recidivate) after their release.

The latest completed sample of BTL graduates for 3 year recidivism rates is very encouraging.

This group represents all BTL graduates incarcerated in ID (Institutional Division) prisons and released from prison in 2011. The large and diversified sample group includes 863 inmates who participated in BTL in 26 different prisons. The recidivism rate for this group is 14%, including only 3% of offenders returning to prison for committing a violent crime. Nationwide, recidivism rates are reported to have remained “largely stable since the mid-1990's, varying between 38% and 40%” (Pew Center State of Recidivism Study, 2011).

The most recent Texas report shows a recidivism rate of 23% (Texas Legislative Board Report, 2013). The Texas recidivism rate has reduced from 33% in 1999 to 23% in 2009. BTL is one of the programs that has contributed to an overall decrease in recidivism in Texas, and BTL graduates show a significantly lower recidivism rate than the average for the nation and for Texas (BTL is 39% below the Texas average).
Another group of BTL graduates is the state jail participants. These inmates are incarcerated for less than two years. State jail recidivism rates are much higher than the Prison ID rates. A recent study of 368 BTL graduates released from 2006-2009 from state jails, shows a recidivism rate of 22%. The reports published by the Texas Legislative Board show that the average state jail recidivism for that same time period is 32%. The BTL graduates recidivate at about one third less than the average state jail population (31% below the Texas average).

Is a program that reduces recidivism cost effective?
The average cost of re-incarcerating an offender in Texas is approximately $90,000 (based on the average stay in prison being 3 years)
The average cost of the Bridges To Life program in Texas for 2011 was $247 per offender.

BTL can be considered what is now termed a “justice reinvestment” program, since the BTL program uses “data-driven, fiscally responsible policies and practices to increase public safety and reduce recidivism and corrections spending.” (The Council of State Governments, The Pew Center on the States, and the Public Welfare Foundation, 2010).

Qualitative Evaluation
Additional evidence of the impact of the BTL program on offender participants as well as evidence of the success of BTL’s second goal—to facilitate healing for the victims of crime—is evaluated based upon qualitative data gathered from comments from victim and offender participants after completing the Bridges To Life process.

Offenders
With the assistance of a professor at the University of Texas (UT) Social Work Department, an anonymous pre and post survey was conducted with about 120 Bridges To Life inmate participants in five projects at various prisons. They completed the same 6-page survey at the very beginning of the project and at the end. The survey measured change in four key areas: Spirituality and relationship with God, Forgiveness – both forgiving others and receiving forgiveness from others and God, Relationship and interaction with others, and Empathy (and related compassion) for others.

Analyses showed “significant change” in all four areas, the strongest rating for this survey, indicating a very successful outcome from these Bridges To Life classes. Offenders continue to complete an evaluation form at the end of each project. Based on an analysis of approximately 900 evaluation forms, several themes were apparent. These themes were: (1) impact, (2) caring, (3) self-knowledge, (4) wanting more and (5) transformation. Said one offender: I learned to be responsible as an individual, owning up to my actions, instead of denying them all the time.

Victims
Facilitation of the healing process for victims is achieved through the dialogue between victim volunteers and offenders. Although there is no way to directly measure the benefit to victims, they often comment that they receive more benefit from the Bridges To Life process than do the offenders. Said one victim volunteer: “Not only do the victims get to share their story and begin healing, they also know that they may make an impact, by putting a face to the crime, on the lives of people who may otherwise go out and commit those same crimes again.”

Perhaps the single best indicator that healing is taking place for victim volunteers is the fact that, since its inception in 2000, more than 400 victim volunteers have participated in the Bridges To Life program, and nearly 150 participate every year—many in more than one project annually.