San Diego Soliloquies

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

The Use of Data is Only for Unbelievers

I've blogged about this before, how data causes an allergic reaction among some branches of conservatives(hey, and some branches of the Left too). And we can all surmise that GWB is not really fond of hard data either, right?

With the possible exception of Marvin Olasky there is no one more at the core of how President Bush views the idea of faith-based charity than Charles Colson. During the Watergate scandals Charles was born again then served time on a felony conviction. Combing those two passtimes he created a new gig called the Prison Fellowship Ministry to try and ease the burden of prisoners and their families. Colson also contributes the "Breakpoint" commentaries to Christian radio stations which among other things rail against evolution. This lack of acquaintance with basic science has caught up with Charles though. At the behest of then Governor Bush, PFM created a program called "InnerChange" in Texas prisons. Recently PFM announced that a University of Pennsylvanie study found "that graduates of InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a faith- and values-based prisoner reform program, are overcoming the odds of returning to prison". Um, nope.

Mark Kleiman has an article in Slate entitled: Faith-Based Fudging - How a Bush-promoted Christian prison program fakes success by massaging data.. Ouch. You see the Penn study looked at a group of prisoners that entered the InnerChange program, and compared them to a group of similar prisoners that did not enter the program, a standard scientific technique called "establishing a control group". If you compare all the prisoners who enrolled in the program to all the prisoners in the control group, enrollees are actually more likely to return to prison. But what InnerChange did was count only those prisoners who went from the program, got out of prison and got jobs. Thus the term "graduated". That's a little like an trade school saying that its graduates have a 100% hired rate when they only count as "graduated" those who got jobs out of school. Nope, you don't get to do that.


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