TBogg

Pork for Chuck

Chuck Colson, the man who once said he would “…walk over my grandmother if necessary to assure the President’s reelection.”, is pretty darn happy with the speech last night from Ashley Pearson’s newest, best-est friend:

The president’s speech last night was inspiring for the nation, and part of it was particularly thrilling for me. The president made a strong appeal to help prisoners transition from prison back into society.

And Chuck should be excited. After all, President Compassionate to Prisoners When I’m Not Killing Them said:

This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can’t find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300 million prisoner re-entry initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. (Applause.)

…and we all know that Chuck is the Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries which means more money in the pocket of his organization and presumably Chuck. Sounds like a win-win for Chuck and the Ministries. Oh yeah, and Jesus too.

Of course there are some benefits to the prisoners if they give their life over, or just pretend to give their life over, to Jeebus:

Most inmates at Iowa’s Newton Correctional Facility live three to a cell and have no privacy, even when they use the toilet. But if they agree to immerse themselves in Bible study and “the transforming love of Jesus Christ,” according to two lawsuits filed yesterday, they are given keys to their cell doors, private bathrooms, free phone calls — even access to big-screen TVs.

The lawsuits, filed by the Washington-based advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, challenge the constitutionality of a prison ministry program that President Bush has promoted as a model for his effort to allow religious groups to compete for public funds to provide social services.

[snip]

InnerChange runs programs that combine Bible study with job training at prisons in Iowa, Texas, Minnesota and Kansas. The lawsuits challenge only the Iowa program. But experts said a ruling against the program could lead to similar challenges in the other states, an appeal to the Supreme Court or both.

To ensure its legal standing to sue, Americans United filed one lawsuit on behalf of Jerry D. Ashburn, 44, who is serving a life sentence for murder, and the second on behalf of families of three other inmates.

According to the suits, about 200 Iowa prisoners pray and memorize Bible verses under the guidance of Christian staff in prison rooms lined with displays of scripture passages. In return, they live in an “honor” unit where they are housed two to a cell, permitted to leave their cells at night and granted many other privileges.

The program is funded, in part, with revenue from phone charges on the general inmate population. Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta said, “No state dollars, including telephone monies, are used in the religious component of the program.” But the lawsuits contend that it is impossible to separate the religious and secular portions of a program that describes itself as “Christ-centered” 24 hours a day.

The suits also say the privileges given to InnerChange participants amount to incentives to convert to fundamentalist Christianity.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA who generally takes a supportive view of faith-based programs, said that if the courts accept the description of the program in the lawsuits, it is likely to be struck down. Even setting aside the issue of state funding, he said, “the offer of various benefits that are unavailable to others is an indirect form of coercion that is clearly impermissible.”

Imagine that….

(Added): Seb at Sadly, No emailed me to point out this article by Mark Kleiman that points out that Colson is a little sloppy…okay, he lies about his numbers.

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TBogg

TBogg

Yeah. Like I would tell you....