OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- More than half of all prisoners in the United States end up back behind bars after serving their sentences.
A Kansas-based rehabilitation program is helping dramatically reduce that re-offender rate.
Reaching Out From Within started nearly 40 years ago counseling inmates serving life sentences.
A German prison reform expert talked with those involved in corrections about changing behaviors by focusing on restoring human dignity to inmates.
Marc Showalter served 17 years in a Kansas prison for aggravated battery.
He said the program helped transform his life, enabling him to have a job with a Leavenworth, Kansas, metal manufacturer as soon as he got out from behind bars.
"There’s a big humanity element to it," Showalter said. "I think we are gathered here today to rethink human dignity. And I realize during my prison sentence that maybe I never came in touch with the human part of myself. And so that was, for me, vital."
Showalter said it's important to want to make changes in your life's direction. Nearly everyone agrees the program cannot help all prisoners.
But in Germany, rehabilitation managers say their best results have been among long term inmates. The re-offender rate has been cut to 8 percent or less in the
German program, similar to the results the Kansas program has seen.
Kansas leads the nation by having Reaching Out From Within chapters at all of its prisons and the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth.