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June 1, 2005

Religion, sentencing and corrections

I have not discussed the Supreme Court's decision in Cutter yesterday largely because, as highlighted by this helpful summary from Marty Lederman at SCOTUSblog, the decision was relatively cursory and did not address in any broad way how the Establishment Clause might impact the intersection of religion, sentencing and corrections. 

However, this post today at CrimProf, which spotlights this AP story about a Kentucky state judge "offering some drug and alcohol offenders the option of attending worship services instead of going to jail or rehab," provides a stark reminder there may be a lot of future litigation over the ways in which religion and sentencing and corrections cross paths.  Kaimi Wenger at PrawfsBlawg in this post, after noting he is "naturally suspicious of coerced church attendance," ponders what a judge should do "in cases where it looks like there is a genuine rehabilitation benefit to be gained from channeling some convicted people to a religious organization that has an effective social network that will help them overcome their problems."

This story from Kentucky only reinforces the point, discussed in this post when cert was first granted in Cutter, that these are interesting times in church-sentencing-prison relations.  As detailed in articles here and here and here, Florida and some other jurisdictions have been experimenting with "faith-based" prisons, which house inmates who have chosen to take part in rehabilitation programs run by volunteers from religious groups.  Though the Cutter ruling seems unlikely to directly impact the faith-based prison movement, it could perhaps bring still more attention to the law and policy of religious involvement in corrections.

June 1, 2005 at 01:16 PM | Permalink


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Iam convicte ex felon, non violent, marijuana, importation in South Florida. I do believe religion or a solid faith based program, can change a man and give him/her a new leaf on life. Unfortunately, the employment situation is still limited when you are an ex-felon, but praise be to God, that people in the right places are realizing that in a lot of situations non-violent offenders, after completing their long sentences, should be given a "Second Chance". After a few years of incarceration, the human becomes somewhat institutionalized, and it is quite hard to "Not Look Back" Thanks for the insight into what some people are doing to help.
Marco Rodriguez,
Maimi Florida

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