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Justice Department Wimps Out

Posted by thelamp on November 6, 2006

The U.S. Justice Department has canceled its plans to create a Christian re-entry program for federal prisoners. Now lost souls that could have been saved will continue to wander in darkness because intimidation tactics of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State swayed authorities.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department said it would set up prison rehabilitation programs for six federal prisons. The plan called for a single-faith, residential re-entry cellblock at one or more pilot site prisons. The programs were supposed to be designed to “facilitate personal transformation of the participating inmates through their own spirituality and faith, and thereby reduce recidivism through promoting the virtues of productive work, respect for others, self-worth, responsibility, and accountability.”

The Center for Moral Clarity firmly endorses faith-based re-entry programs because they give inmates a strong moral foundation. It’s widely accepted that the spiritual relationship helps offenders return to society as law-abiding members of the community.

The problem with the federal prison re-entry proposal is that the cellblocks in participating prisons would have been set up as single-faith units. Any individual program could have been Jewish, Muslim, Christian or any one faith. At a conference for potential contractors, federal authorities explained that structure would allow participants to work through the particular principles of faith.

Barry Lynn, director of Americans United, waged a campaign against the Justice Department’s plan, arguing that publicly funded rehabilitation programs should be open to all inmates, not just those of one particular faith. So the government’s solution is not to create the program at all.

The Justice Department’s cowardly move follows a similar decision in Iowa, where a federal judge ruled in June that a state-funded evangelical Christian prison rehab program was unconstitutional. That case has been appealed.

Rather than face a certain court battle, the Department of Justice took the wimp’s way out and scrapped the whole program. It’s always disappointing when God’s love and helpful guidance are denied to people whose lives desperately need enrichment. Communities across the country will suffer the consequences.


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