NEW YORK - The growing crime and incarceration rates are the consequences of a lack of moral training in society today, said Watergate-convict-turned-Christian-evangelical-leader Chuck Colson.
When Colson was serving time in prison in the mid-1970s, there were 239,000 incarcerated individuals. Now, that figure had increased ten-fold to a staggering 2.3 million people.
During an interview hosted by The King's College Friday, Colson contended that prisons in the United States have become bigger over the years because there is a lack of moral training and education, not because there are more bad people in society.
"The moral breakdown in our society is the real reason we're building prisons," said Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
He disagreed that longer and tougher sentences would deter crime, citing a study done by psychiatrists in the 70s that found people committed crimes based on wrong moral choices not by their environment.
The former aide to President Richard Nixon said the incarceration figure could be reduced in half if moral training were provided to people during what he calls their "morally formative years."
But part of the struggle to educate the next generation is the battle over what society thinks is moral and ethical, explained Colson, who pointed to the fight to recite the Declaration of Independence in schools as example.
"The law can become moral teachers only because we incorporate what we have decided are moral values in that society," he said.
The lack of teaching on moral law and ethics was what inspired his latest DVD series. In Doing the Right Thing, a six-part series slated for release in February 2011, Colson and a panel of scholars and ethicists tackle ethics and moral philosophy head-on as they examine the recent financial and economic crises, cultural shifts in attitudes towards marriage and family, human and civil rights, life and death, what it means to be human, as well as basic principles of right and wrong.
"Truth has got to be knowable for there to be ethics," argues Colson in the video for the series.
Colson said he hopes that the series, a joint project between the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and The Witherspoon Institute, will be used at the undergraduate and graduate level to transform how students see and apply ethics in the marketplace and public life.
"We hope it will really penetrate business, medical, and law schools," said Colson.