A critique of faith-based prison programs.
"Faith-based prisons" are the latest fad in a significant number of states' criminal justice systems, and their growth is an egregious threat to the constitutional democracy that George W. Bush, upon ascending to the U.S. presidency, swore to defend and protect. These programs are supported by state revenue distributed directly or indirectly to sectarian religious organizations for the ostensible Apparent; visible; exhibited.
Ostensible authority is power that a principal, either by design or through the absence of ordinary care, permits others to believe his or her agent possesses. goals of rehabilitation and reduction of recidivism recidivism: see criminology. . And Bush's commitment to such a theologically driven and pessimistic view of the impotency of government to cure our nation's social ills is allowing the continuation of enormous harm to the public interest.
During his tenure as Texas governor, Bush spawned the "faith-based agenda"--his plan to cure the United States' social ills through the ministries of religious organizations. It started in 1996 when he appointed a sixteen-member Governor's Advisory Task Force on Faith-based Community A faith-based community is a community with members who all believe in the same religious concepts, or at least they did when it was founded. Many faith-based communities are communes, although this is not a requirement. Service Groups. The product of this group was a report called Faith in Action: A New Vision for Church-State Cooperation in Texas. The following year Bush used this document to justify establishing "The Inner Change Freedom Initiative" program in the Carol Vance prison unit, a male facility of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
This program was the brainchild of Chuck Colson, the Watergate convict-cum-evangelical Christian and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries. A concise statement of the substance of this program in the February 2003 evaluation report of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council states:
The program was designed to facilitate the life transformation of the member eliminating the thinking process which resulted in his incarceration and to rebuild the member's value system, establishing a solid foundation for productive growth.... a three phase program involving prisoners in 16 to 24 months of in-prison biblical programming and 6-12 months of aftercare while on parole. The different program phases focus on biblical education, life skills, community service, leadership and personal faith.
The report further reveals that the initial project involved approximately two hundred beds in a separate wing of the Vance Unit. No sex offenders, murderers, or inmates convicted of aggravated assault A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he or she attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another or causes such injury purposely, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; or attempts to cause or purposely or were allowed to volunteer for the program. The outcome of this highly restrictive list of eligibility criteria was that the participants were basically medium- to low-risk drug offenders. In April 1997 the initial group of 141 volunteers "hand selected" by administrators of Colson's organization entered the program.
Financial backing for the program reportedly came largely from Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries, a not-for-profit organization that provided "funding to cover the salaries and benefits of program staff, the costs of Bible-based instructional and educational materials, and staff and volunteer training, materials and expenses." The Texas Department of Criminal Justice covered "security and day-to-day operating costs operating costs npl → gastos mpl operacionales of the Vance Unit, including inmate support costs such as food, medical services and clothing."
Impressed by the apparent number of successful "graduates" who were released into the community and didn't recidivate re·cid·i·vate
intr.v. re·cid·i·vat·ed, re·cid·i·vat·ing, re·cid·i·vates
To return to a previous pattern of behavior, especially to return to criminal habits. , in 2001 the Seventy-seventh Texas Legislature The Texas Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Texas. The legislature meets at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. In Texas, the Legislature is considered the most powerful branch of state government because of its aggressive use of the power of the purse to , without a request from Colson, appropriated $1.5 million to expand the program. That not a single penny of this money was actually used can probably be attributed to Article 1, Section 7, of the Texas Constitution concerning Appropriations for Sectarian Purposes, which states: "No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes," In 2003 the Seventy-eighth Texas Legislature The Seventy-eighth Texas Legislature met from 14 January to 2 June 2003 in regular session, and in three called sessions in 2003, and a fourth called session in 2004. All members of the House of Representatives and all members of the Senate (15 to two-year terms, 16 to four-year was obliged to make deep cuts in the state's budget and the $1.5 million was deleted.
Critics correctly note that participants in Colson's program aren't given the option to refuse to profess a commitment to an agenda that is inherently religious. The website of Colson's organization explicitly states that the entire menu of social services social services
welfare services provided by local authorities or a state agency for people with particular social needs
social services npl → servicios mpl sociales touted as "non-sectarian" activities crucial for successful reintegration reintegration /re·in·te·gra·tion/ (-in-te-gra´shun)
1. biological integration after a state of disruption.
2. restoration of harmonious mental function after disintegration of the personality in mental illness. are offered to inmates "willing to participate in a Christ-centered biblically-based program." This is equivalent to a coerced nonchoice between salvation and damnation and hypocrisy by some inmates who perceive it as a one-way ticket to early release and freedom.
The theological doctrine Noun 1. theological doctrine - the doctrine of a religious group
theanthropism - (theology) the doctrine that Jesus was a union of the human and the divine of paramount importance to Colson--and certainly to all evangelical Christian groups with similar programs--is that criminal conduct is a manifestation of a person's sinful nature and the only cure comes from the miraculous power of God's grace and love. The guts of this widely shared belief is that all secular programs designed to rehabilitate in a therapeutic model of creating and restoring human relationships are doomed to failure. This belief is embraced by Bush and is the key to understanding his belief in the near total ineptitude Ineptitude
See also Awkwardness.
meek hero unable to kick a football, fly a kite, or win a baseball game. [Comics: “Peanuts” in Horn, 543]
incompetent commander of the minesweeper Caine. of governmental policies and programs created to improve the lives of citizens.
The spread of faith-based prisons is due primarily to the influence of Bush and his ideological twin brother, Jeb (governor of Florida The Governor of Florida is the chief executive of the Government of Florida, and serves as chairman of the Florida Cabinet. The Governor has the power to execute Florida's laws and to call out the state militia to preserve the public peace, being Commander-in-Chief of the state's ). In 2003 Jeb Bush John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (born February 11, 1953) is an American politician, and was the 43rd Governor of Florida as well as the first Republican to be re-elected to that office. He is a prominent member of the Bush family: the younger brother of current President George W. proudly dedicated the first faith-based prison in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. : a 750-bed medium security facility for males in Lawtey, Florida Lawtey is a city in Bradford County, Florida, United States. The population was 656 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 673 . . Like his brother in the White House, he claims that the only way to achieve real rehabilitation of criminals and reduce recidivism is to "lead them to God." Florida advocates of this program claim that the prison consists entirely of 700 to 750 male inmates with a professed desire to be rehabilitated who are being voluntarily led to achieve this goal by committing their lives to a god of their choosing through Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. In April 2004 Florida opened its second faith-based prison for more than 300 female inmates in the Hillsborough unit in Riverview.
The eligibility criteria for acceptance into both of these faith-based prisons contain an inherent programmatic contradiction that isn't mentioned, is dismissed as superfluous, or isn't perceived by its advocates. Participants aren't required to profess belief in any god, aren't required to attend any religious courses, but they must articulate a commitment to believing they can be changed. Admitting that a person can be a successful graduate without a belief in a god or attending any religious services deals a death-blow to any form of argument that morality is inseparably linked to religion and that a religious "conversion" is necessary to produce a permanent change in the thinking and conduct of any person.
Texas and Florida are the leading wagons in the train of faith-based programs for prison inmates. Other wagons include Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, Minnesota, Kansas, Maryland, California, and Ohio. And, not surprisingly, Corrections Corporation of America Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW) (CCA) is a company that manages public prisons and other facilities, and has concessions for many others. The company had annual revenues in 2004 of $1.15 billion USD. (CCA (1) (Common Cryptographic Architecture) Cryptography software from IBM for MVS and DOS applications.
(2) (Compatible Communications A )--the United States' largest owner and operator of private prisons, based in Nashville, Tennessee “Nashville” redirects here. For other uses, see Nashville (disambiguation).
Nashville is the capital and the second most populous city of the U.S. state of Tennessee, after Memphis. , and motivated by the smell of fresh state and federal dollars--has joined forces with the Chicago-based Institute in Basic Life Principles The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) is a Christian organization in Oak Brook, Illinois that serves as an umbrella organization for several ministries. IBLP was established by Bill Gothard for the purpose of introducing people to his brand of Christianity, and is dedicated , a Christian evangelical organization committed to the view that only Jesus Christ Jesus Christ: see Jesus.
40 days after Resurrection, ascended into heaven. [N.T.: Acts 1:1–11]
See : Ascension
kind to the poor, forgiving to the sinful. [N.T. , the son of God, can change lives.
Bill Berkowitz, in his September 4, 2004, WorkingForChange column, "Prisons, Profits, and Prophets," writes that the short-term goal of this partnership is to enroll up to 1,000 inmates in CCA prisons. Earlier in April 2003 the CCA entered into a "full-scale partnership" with a Dallas-based evangelical Christian group called Champions for Life. The goal of that alignment was to, within three years, have in place "religious-oriented prison programs" in all of CCA's sixty-four facilities, containing more than 60,000 inmates. But these partnerships are nothing but sick jokes. The CCA has been plagued by a history of lawsuits, including accusations of prisoner abuse Prisoner abuse is the mistreatment of persons while they are under arrest or incarcerated. Abuse falling into this category includes:
Historically considered, the first faith-based programs for prison inmates were in Louisiana. In 1995 the New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded Baptist Theological Seminary Baptist Theological Seminaryis a Baptist seminary located in Jagannaickpur, Church Square, Kakinada in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
It was established by the missionaries of the Canadian Baptist Mission about a century ago. officially launched a course of studies culminating in undergraduate degrees for inmates in the infamous prison in Angola, Louisiana. The credit for initiating this program belongs to Burl Cain Burl Cain was named Warden of Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) in January 1995 by Secretary Richard Stalder. He is the brother of James David Cain and Alton Cain. Known for his innovative approaches in prison management, Warden Cain holds a degree from the Louisiana State , a devout Southern Baptist Noun 1. Southern Baptist - a member of the Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention - an association of Southern Baptists
Baptist - follower of Baptistic doctrines and the warden of the Angola prison. The story of Cain's campaign to spiritually transform one of the nation's toughest prisons from which very few prisoners will ever leave is a powerful and persuasive argument for prison inmates to engage in religious studies. Supposedly, the seminary and private donations cover the majority of expenses for this biblically oriented program, which, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Cain, has made Angola "more peaceful than New Orleans," so "god reigns at Angola." The fact remains, however, as acknowledged by Cain, that a significant number of tax dollars are used to support this Southern Baptist version of evangelical Christianity.
The combined efforts of these religious groups can be credited with leading a relatively large number of inmates to life-changing transformations and productive lives. Anyone, therefore, who voices opposition to the distribution of state and federal revenue to religious organizations providing spiritual guidance capable of transforming the lives of thousands of hardened criminals is going to be portrayed as an opponent of motherhood and apple pie apple pie
typical, wholesome American dessert. [Am. Culture: Flexner, 68]
See : America . And the totally pragmatic justification of programs that achieve positive results is persuasive.
But the president emphatically denies it is the responsibility of the government to provide all inmates in our nations' prisons the same kind of social services that are essential components of all effective faith-based programs. On February 10, 2003, in a speech at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, promoting his faith-based initiative, George W. Bush declared:
We've arrested and we convict criminals; yet building more prisons will not substitute for responsibility and order in our souls. The role of government is limited because government cannot put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That happens when someone puts an arm around a neighbor and says, "God loves you, I love you, and you can count on us both."
These comments are a loud and clear commitment to the beliefs that governmental policies and programs can't and shouldn't attempt to promote virtuous conduct in the lives of citizens.
In response to anyone who criticizes his religious crusade with the suggestion that he is blurring, if not potentially destroying, church-state separation, the president replies in a cavalier style and invokes a totally specious spe·cious
1. Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious: a specious argument.
2. Deceptively attractive. distinction in support of his position. In an interview with Christianity Today Christianity Today is an Evangelical Christian periodical based in Carol Stream, Illinois. It is the flagship publication of its parent company Christianity Today International, claiming circulation figures of 145,000 and readership of 304,500. , during which the paramount issue Noun 1. paramount issue - an issue whose settlement is more important than anything else; and issue that must be settled before anything else can be settled of church-state separation was raised, Bush confidently stated:
We're funding people and programs, not institutions. Some of my opponents worry about proselytization. I believe the power of the church is the capacity to change the heart, and we should not force the church to change its mission.
The entire "faith-based initiative" of the Bush administration is mired mire
1. An area of wet, soggy, muddy ground; a bog.
2. Deep slimy soil or mud.
3. A disadvantageous or difficult condition or situation: the mire of poverty.
v. in a constitutional minefield with numerous lawsuits filed by organizations alleging the violation of church-state separation. Some prominent religious leaders are claiming that the government is using all religions in this country as a dumping ground for the nation's social ills. The government, they say, has abandoned its responsibility by using the scent-laden lures of state and federal grants for nonprofit charitable organizations to create and provide a myriad of social services. The irony of this situation is the frequently heard complaint that bureaucratic red tape designed to protect the line between church and state is preventing religious organizations from fulfilling their mission. And it is certainly important to note that some religious leaders of the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish faiths have gone on record with statements that the president's entire faith-based action plan violates the separation of church and state
Most, if not all organizations with faith-based programs for prison inmates release reports claiming to scientifically demonstrate a high success rate of participants and a significant reduction of recidivism. Again, while not doubting that many lives are permanently redirected in a positive direction, the temptation to "cook the books Cook the Books
A fraudulent activity done by some corporations to falsify their financial statements.
Cookie jar accounting is a great example of cooking the books. " to achieve the desired results and engage in "casuistry casuistry (kăzh`yĭstrē) [Lat., casus=case], art of applying general moral law to particular cases. " is too strong for some to resist. Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries is probably the most prominent example of resorting to what Mark A. R. Kleiman characterizes as:
one of the oldest tricks on the books, one almost guaranteed to make a success of any program: counting the winners and ignoring the losers. The technical form for this in statistics is "selection bias"; program managers know it as "creaming."
In his August 5, 2003, Slate article, "Faith-Based Fudging," Kleiman comments on 75 of 177 volunteer inmates who graduated from Colson's program at the Vance prison unit in Texas:
Graduation involved sticking with the program, not only in prison but after release. No one counted as a graduate, for example, unless he got a job. Naturally, the graduates did better than the control group. Anything that selects out from a group of ex-inmates who hold jobs is going to look like a miracle cure, because getting a job is among the very best predictors of staying out of trouble. And inmates who stick with a demanding program of self-improvement through 16 months probably have more inner resources, and a stronger determination to turn their lives around, than the average inmate. The InnerChange cheerleaders simply ignored the other 102 participants who dropped out, were kicked out, or got early parole and didn't finish. Naturally, the non-graduates did worse than the control group. If you select out the winners, you leave mostly losers.
Kleiman's final judgment is that "probably no one was actually lying; they were just believing, and repeating as a fact, what they wanted to believe." But perhaps Colson's loyal troops, like the Catholic Jesuits in the seventeenth century, used some complex reasoning (casuistry) to justify moral laxity laxity /lax·i·ty/ (lak´si-te)
1. slackness or looseness; a lack of tautness, firmness, or rigidity.
2. slackness or displacement in the motion of a joint.lax´
Another flagrant example of this kind of reasoning is found in the earlier cited evaluation report on Colson's program written by the staff of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council and approved by its director, Tony Fabelo Tony Fabelo has been the executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council, since 1991. Quotes
has operated at no cost to the taxpayer. ... Even if early outcome results in terms of reduction in recidivism are not dramatically better than some programs operated by the state, improvements in the Inner Freedom Initiative program may result in better outcomes in the future and those outcomes will have been achieved at no cost to the taxpayer.
Collectively considered, all of the states with faith-based programs for prison inmates are spending millions of tax dollars in direct or indirect payment for religious-oriented programs to salvage the lives of a select few while doing little to change the lives of the vast majority of inmates--most of whom will eventually be released with or without some form of supervision. The remedy for this blatantly unfair and unconstitutional expenditure of state revenue is, first, to abolish it and, second, to develop a new and more inclusive agenda for changing lives and reducing recidivism.
I have no reason to doubt or criticize the fact that President George W. Bush is a born-again Christian whose less than exemplary life was transformed by his conversion to some religious beliefs. Although I don't agree with those who argue that he is a malicious bigot bigot - A person who is religiously attached to a particular computer, language, operating system, editor, or other tool (see religious issues). Usually found with a specifier; thus, "Cray bigot", "ITS bigot", "APL bigot", "VMS bigot", "Berkeley bigot". and hypocrite cloaked in the guise of a compassionate evangelical Christian, I am unconditionally persuaded that he is sincerely and profoundly wrong in his advocacy of the "faith-based agenda" spawned during his tenure as governor of Texas. I believe that his presidential plan to cure the nation's social ills through the ministries of religious organizations is an insidious threat to the constitutional separation of church and state. All faith-based programs for prison inmates to which state revenue is distributed either directly or indirectly through sectarian religious organizations are an egregious constitutional violation.
Dr. Lawrence Thomas Jablecki received a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Manchester University in Manchester, England. He teaches philosophy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and has taught philosophy to hundreds of Texas prison inmates. He was also director of the Brazoria County Community Supervision and Corrections Department in Angleton, Texas, for eighteen years. His writings have appeared previously in the Humanist.