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Thread: Gov. Bush opens largest faith-based prison

  1. #1
    beltman713 Guest

    Gov. Bush opens largest faith-based prison

    (Beltman713: He's got to be kidding?)

    Gov. Bush opens largest faith-based prison
    He hopes it cuts return to crime

    By Mark Hollis
    Tallahassee Bureau
    Posted November 24 2005

    CRAWFORDVILLE ยท Just beyond the razor-wire front gates of Wakulla Correctional Institution, a dozen inmates stood outside a chapel Wednesday morning, playing electric guitars and singing aloud about how they would "rather have Jesus than silver and gold."

    Minutes later, Gov. Jeb Bush arrived to dedicate what's being called the nation's largest faith- and character-based prison.

    With a large contingent of reporters and state officials watching, Bush told several dozen of the prison's 1,600 inmates that the spiritual training it offers may be the secret to keeping them from returning to prison.

    Besides regular prayer sessions, Wakulla is offering religious studies, choir practice, "life skills" and anger-management lessons and other spiritual activities seven days a week.

    Wakulla is an all-male prison in a barren spot 20 minutes south of Tallahassee. But it's about to gain national fame as it becomes the third and biggest state prison in Florida to convert entirely to the voluntary faith-based program -- a unique inmate training that the state first began to offer two years ago in anticipation of a lawsuit forcing the issue.

    Altogether, more than 3,000 inmates are participating statewide, including almost 300 women at a Tampa-area prison.

    Bush, a devout Catholic who has defiantly rejected civil libertarians' criticism of the state's faith-based programs, told the inmates how daily prayer has improved his life. He said he shares their belief in the power of faith.

    "My expectation is that you'll be better behaved here, but also better prepared when you get out of here to live a productive life," Bush said.

    Most of the volunteers who minister to and teach the inmates come from nearby Christian and evangelical churches, but efforts are made to bring in spiritual leaders of many faiths.

    "It's just so difficult to get volunteers of faiths other than Christianity to come here," said Marilyn Nase, a volunteer from a nearby Baptist church in Tallahassee.

    Officials say the program aims to serve inmates of all faiths, even those of no faith whatsoever.

    Some inmates sing its praises.

    "It's a very important initiative. It has the potential to change lives, to change families, and to change entire communities," said Thomas Siebert.

    Siebert, 51, said the classes he has attended in prison have helped him develop a "relationship with God" that he considers the reason why he won't return to prison a third time after his expected release in a few months. He is a former newspaper writer and editor from Coral Springs, where he worked at area news organizations, including the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

    Siebert went to prison the first time, he said, in 1993, after he left the Sun-Sentinel, and then again in 2001 -- both times because of drug possession charges related to a cocaine habit.

    "I could have come to a prison where it's just a matter of survival," he said.

    "I don't want to minimize it, there are risks and dangers at this prison, too. But you can come here and grow in God's grace and knowledge."

    Opponents predict faith-based programming like what is offered here will someday face major constitutional challenges.

    Bush told reporters he is pleased to see the faith-based program expand in the state, although he acknowledges that there is only anecdotal evidence that it's having an effect on reducing inmates' rate of returning to crime.

    "I would urge the governor not to get too comfortable with that stance just yet," said Robert Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "Of course, they [officials] are going to pretend they are abiding by the Constitution," Boston said.

    "But how is it running on the ground? Is it state promotion of religion? Are inmates treated unequally because of their religions? These are questions yet unanswered."

    Mark Hollis can be reached at or 850-224-6214.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Oh man... can you imagine... being sent to jail, and being "brainwashed" into religion...
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  3. #3
    jetsetlemming Guest
    It's voluntary. Says it right in the article.

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