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January 29, 2007

Interesting Ohio report on correctional faith-based initiatives

As explained in prior posts here and here, I am an (agnostic?) supporter of faith-based prison programs.  Thus, I was please to discover a recent report from the Correctional Faith-Based Initiatives Task Force of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.   The lengthy report, cleverly entitled "Report to the Ohio General Assembly from the Correctional Faith-Based Initiatives Task Force," is available at this link.   The report has lots of analysis and recommendations, and here are the main themes:

The Correctional Faith-Based Initiatives Task Force considered the data and made recommendations for changes in the system in four major areas: (1) alternatives to incarceration, (2) prison programming, (3) reentry programming, and (4) infrastructure.  It was clear there is an expanded role for the faith community in corrections, and that the departments of Rehabilitation and Correction and Youth Services need to work together with the faith community to increase volunteers working with offenders.

January 29, 2007 at 06:08 PM | Permalink

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That is a pretty lengthy, as it probably should be, report. As an ex-convict who was transformed by God's grace 34 years ago I am deeply interested in what is ongoing now in the prison system. I Left Prison Behind (johnthomson.blogspot.com) 29 years past, been married 26 years, raised 3 children (drug and crime free)attended Northwestern University, ran for city council... My question to the world... do you want to make a difference for good or bad. Because which ever position you have on Faith based programs in prison both make a difference. A prison school teacher working for the U. S. Bureau of Prisons told me that God could change my life. Is that a violation of a supposed separation of church and state because she was getting paid by government money? I accepted her invitation to accept Christ. 8 years later after I was released she accepted my invitation to marriage.

Posted by: John Thomson | Jan 29, 2007 11:33:22 PM

Mr. Thomson~
Congratulations on your transformation. Please continue to share your story whenever you can. You are a great example of what faith based programs in prison can do. I am a very strong proponent of the separation of church and state but I believe that if done correctly, these types of programs can be used and not violate that separation. If it reforms someone as it clearly has you then that makes it all the better.
God Bless You.
Mike

Posted by: da_2_b | Jan 30, 2007 10:01:46 AM

Thank you Mike for your kind words. I suppose my words alluded that my 'change of life' were the result of my participation in a 'faith based program'. It was not. In 1972 there were no faith based programs. All volunteers from the community supported the chaplain's programs that he was responsible for. Those "chaplain's programs" included religious programs for all faiths, Muslims, Jews, Jehovas Witnesses, etc. Volunteers were permitted to be involved in all such worships.

I pre-date Chuck Colson.

What concerns me over the matter of faith-based programs is the manner in which the supporters are defending the beneficial consequences of the programs. If its all about the money, then derive a different source of funding.

Now chaplains are another matter. In my state of Illinois there are 40 plus prisons. There are only 15 chaplains. The warden is at his discretion if he wants to add a chaplain on the payroll. That I find unacceptable.

Posted by: John Thomson | Jan 30, 2007 1:56:12 PM

I too have spent many years in the Iron House and am now attempting to open a handful of re-entry transition houses in the LA area. Among many other venues, I volunteer to speak at the Archdiocese (Partnership for Re-Entry Program)in appreciation for a favor done years ago and they too, are trying to focus on re-entry transitional support for the recently incarcerated. Although I personally favor Spirituality over religion, as a Native American, the Spiritual Leaders in prison still come under the title of Native American Chaplain so in this sense, anyone or group who prays with sincerety should have the support of corrections as it is proven that they are more likely to program and the faith-based community is supportive. It is sad that this topic even has to be addressed by a task force as it is a no-brainer.

Posted by: Mark Verba | Feb 9, 2007 12:56:01 PM

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