February 13, 2003


Lawsuits challenge prison program (WILLIAM PETROSKI, 02/13/2003, Des Moines Register)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Wednesday it is launching a major legal challenge against a nationally recognized Iowa prison program in which 210 inmates immerse themselves in Christian-oriented values.

The Newton Correctional Facility program, known as the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, is sponsored by Prison Fellowship. President Bush has called InnerChange a model for faith-based social services. Similar programs operate in Texas, Kansas and Minnesota. [...]

The Bible-based program has been at the Newton prison since October 1999, with inmates spending days in academic and Christian education, counseling and work. There is an emphasis on morality, helping others and on personal responsibility.

The Newton program has about eight staff members, paid with private money, and there are scores of church volunteers. Each inmate has a mentor and a sponsoring church when he is released.

Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said this week that the Newton program does not use taxpayer money for religious education or counseling. Public money does pay for food, housing, clothing and other services similar to those provided to all general population inmates, he said.

The Newton program has had participation by Jews, Muslims and atheists and does not discriminate against anyone, said Jerry Wilger of Durango, Colo., national director of InnerChange Freedom Initiative.

"The government is interested in reducing recidivism, increasing public safety, and reducing the burden of government, and that is what we partner with them to do," Wilger said.

The lawsuits contend InnerChange inmates have privileges not accorded other prisoners, including keys to their cells; access to private bathrooms; free telephone calls to family; and access to big-screen TVs, computers and art supplies.

Here is modern liberalism carried to its final demented conclusion. Rather than support a program that appears to be having some success rehabilitating prisoners, the Left demands it be stopped because it has a religious (though non-denominational) focus. Better that these guys be recidivists than that Norman Lear's delicate sensibilities be offended. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 13, 2003 10:05 PM

Moreover, I shudder at the possibility that this enlighted institution had a choice to pick on this program or one of those run by militant islamofascists (to recruit Anericans for martyrdom) and choose the former to make their point...

Posted by: MG at February 14, 2003 4:46 AM

I am fascinated by the intersection of holy roller religion and crime.

Two days ago, one of the young lady reporters was asking what I knew about Jesus Is Alive Church (she had a complaint they've been preaching and practicing not sparing the rod).

Well, I knew two things about its pastor.

1. When TWA 800 went down, he preached that all the passengers (among whom were six tiny infants) were chosen by God for punishment, but that he could provide a formula for his parishioners to avoid a like fate.

You see why I admire Christianity so much.

2. When the church came in for its land use permits, several dozen members of the congregation testified how important it was in their lives. Each testimony began, "I was an alcoholic . . . drug addict . . . philanderer . . . thief" etc.

I realize we are all sinners (except me), but this was ridiculous. Who would want -- given recidivism rates -- a gang of hundreds of criminals as neighbors?

Posted by: Harry at February 14, 2003 2:15 PM

I'm confused; did their plane crash too, or was the Reverend right?

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2003 3:43 PM

He offered a general spiritual prophylaxis, good for more than air travel.

Posted by: Harry at February 14, 2003 5:54 PM

Well, the travel insurance apparently worked. Maybe you should join?

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2003 11:18 AM

Interesting again. Consider the origins of the Penitentiary system: to give criminals a chance to meditate, pray, study Scripture and repent, as an alternative to simply hanging them.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 15, 2003 10:47 PM