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May 22, 2008

Alabama looks to God squad to do its public safety job

This great post at The Faculty Lounge pointed me to this stunning local article about Alabama Governor's formal outreach to faith-based groups to help with prison reentry.  The full article is a must-read, and here are just a few snippets:

Gov. Bob Riley on Tuesday asked the state's churches to shoulder the burden of caring for newly released inmates, saying the state lacks the flexibility and funds to help them successfully re-enter society. 

Leaders from churches and charitable groups were asked to provide a wide range of services to former inmates, including employment assistance, housing, clothing, health care and cash.  Riley said the state's churches can rise to the challenge just as they do in response to natural disasters such as hurricanes. "If we can motivate the faith-based community in the state the way we do during an emergency, then we can make a difference," Riley said to a group of about 500 people, mostly religious leaders. 

Bill Johnson, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, said the state releases 11,000 inmates a year and isn't capable of providing the services necessary to help them readjust.  Even if the state had the funds, such programs aren't popular with taxpayers, he said.  The state will provide no direct funds to the program, called the Community Partnership for Recovery and Re-entry, but will coordinate the efforts of the churches and other volunteer groups. "We're admitting we can't solve the problem," Johnson said.

At a meeting that vacillated between policy seminar and revival, state officials outlined their needs to religious leaders, who said they view the program as an opportunity to spread the word of God. Deborah Daniels, state director of the Prison Fellowship Ministry, drew a chorus of "amens" when she said faith is a necessary component of rehabilitation. "We allowed government to come in and take over what God's people are supposed to do," she said. "We talk about crime. But crime is sin. Apart from God, every child is troubled." Many in the audience came to their feet, some waving their arms and shouting affirmation....

Alex Luchenitser, senior attorney with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said it's too soon to know whether the program will raise constitutional issues. But if the state government's involvement with the program ends with referring inmates to churches, then it likely would pass constitutional muster.  "There's certainly nothing wrong with religious charities providing care for inmates and recently released inmates," he said.

Some related posts on faith-based prison programs:

May 22, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink

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From the article: "Bill Johnson, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, said the state releases 11,000 inmates a year and isn't capable of providing the services necessary to help them readjust. Even if the state had the funds, such programs aren't popular with taxpayers, he said. The state will provide no direct funds to the program, called the Community Partnership for Recovery and Re-entry, but will coordinate the efforts of the churches and other volunteer groups. 'We're admitting we can't solve the problem,' Johnson said."

How's that for leadership! We'll create a political problem by making people irrationally scared of crime for electoral advantage. Then, when we can't solve that problem created by our posturing, we'll throw our hands up in the air and lament the unpopularity of helping criminals! And, then, we'll continue to scare the bejesus out of the people and proclaim ourselves "tough on crime" to get reelected! But, hey, when you're trying to outsource the government anyway, it all actually works out to your advantage anyway.

Posted by: DK | May 24, 2008 1:11:22 PM

I AM A RECENT GRADUATE OF PITTSBURGH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY MA IN THEOLOGY AND GRADUATE CERTIFICATE IN METRO URBAN STUDIES CLASS OF 2009
MY ORGANIZATION GOD'S SQUAD COMMUNITY MINISTRY ISAIAH 61 ATTEMPTS TO ACHIEVE SIMILAR GOALS TO THAT OF THE GOD SQUAD ORGANIZATION MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE.

I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE TO NETWORK WITH THIS ORGANIZATION--AND LEADS? THANKS.

Posted by: MARY WASHINGTON | Jun 19, 2009 9:13:20 AM

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