Program prepares Rikers inmates for release

A group of inmates at Rikers Island is taking part in a Prison Fellowship program meant to help them re-enter society.

A group of inmates at Rikers Island is taking part in a Prison Fellowship program meant to help them re-enter society.

A group of inmates at Rikers Island is taking part in a Prison Fellowship program meant to help them re-enter society. (12/29/16)

THE BRONX - A group of inmates at Rikers Island is taking part in a Prison Fellowship program meant to help them re-enter society.

The jail, one of the country's largest, has been embroiled in controversy over inmate deaths and alleged abuses, but program participants say the fellowship can transform their lives for the better.

The program began 40 years ago, founded by Chuck Colson, the former aide to President Richard Nixon who served time after the Watergate scandal.

He founded the Prison Fellowship, which is heavily influenced by Christianity, to break the cycle of inmates gaining their freedom only to become incarcerated again.

Since Rikers is a jail and not a prison, the program's inmates there have all been sentenced to serve a year or less. They say they are benefiting from addiction counseling, anger management programs, help with financial planning and parenting.

Department of Corrections officials say educational programs like the Prison Fellowship also serve to reduce violence within jails as they prepare inmates to reintegrate into society.

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