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May 21, 2010

Interesting talk in Oklahoma about creating a "Christian Prison"

I just came across this fascinating local story from Oklahoma headlined "Christian Prison Remains On Hold: Leaders Say They Need Commitment From Prisoners." (Hat tip: Prison Law Blog).  Here are the basics:

A private firm proposing a prison in Wakita with all born-again Christian staff and programming does not yet have the commitments for prisoners it needs to begin construction.

Bill Robinson, the founder of Corrections Concepts Inc., a Dallas nonprofit prison ministry that is leading the proposal, said the bonding company that is financing the project will not release funds to begin construction until states or other jurisdictions have agreed to send 285 prisoners to the 624-bed facility. "We're still working to get the adult facility done," Robinson said.

He said California has expressed an interest in sending adult inmates to Wakita, and he is in discussion with Kansas about it.  Talks with Oklahoma are "in limbo."

The project has the support of city leaders in Wakita, a town near the Kansas border, and some civic leaders in the area. "We'd be very supportive of it," said John Criner, the mayor of Enid, the largest nearby city. "We can't put any money into it, but I'd be more than happy to get him a resolution supporting the project."

Criner said Enid, which is 30 miles south of Wakita, was close enough to reap indirect economic benefit from the proposed prison. Mayor Arden Chaffee of nearby Alva said the prison would have a positive effect on the area economy. "It sounds like a great idea. I just don't know if they can finance something like that, which is a Christian concept, with public money," he said.

The concept of an all-Christian private prison has drawn the attention of a Washington, D.C., civil liberties group. The group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, sent a letter to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections asking it not to send prisoners to the proposed prison.

Alex Luchenitser, the group's senior litigation counsel, said its chief concern is that public funds would be used for religious worship and instruction. "We think this would be clearly unconstitutional," he said. The organization also is concerned about possible civil-rights violations of prisoners, and public subsidy of an organization that hires only Christians, he said.

Robinson countered that the prison would be constitutional because inmates would go there voluntarily. He said he has legal opinions that say the prison, as a religious organization, can legally hire only people of like faith.

If constitutional challenges arise, he said, the American Center for Law and Justice, a major Christian law firm in Washington, has agreed to represent the ministry without charge....

Robinson's concept is to put inmates into a Christian environment where they can learn, work and grow spiritually during the last year or so of their incarceration. They would work at businesses that are set up in the prison, where they would learn a marketable skill and earn money for their families, for restitution to their victims, and for a nest egg when they are released. "We want to turn criminals into citizens," he said.

I am generally a fan of faith-based prisons, especially because early research suggests they are more effective at rehabilitative programming.  So I hope this project gets off the ground and does not get unduly thwarted by litigation that will use up state and other resources that would be better allocated to inmate programs.

May 21, 2010 at 07:24 PM | Permalink


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This appears to be a win win situation for everyone. No one is being forced to participate, and many may find solace from the stress of prison. As a devout atheist, I still respect religion. For those with IQ's below 125, it summarizes morality, and explains why one should go to work every day, to support oneself and one's family, not go for the full time Roman Orgy lifestyle of the street.

Now, lawyer bullies are trying to intimidate these sincere folks with ruinous litigation. I do not subscribe to anti-bullying programs. They are garbage. You punch the bully in the nose when looking elsewhere, then stomp him when on the ground, then run. The families of potential inmates should pay a visit to the lawyer bully. They should throw things around the office, and knock the lawyers down to the ground. To deter. If the lawyer bully does not get the message, I believe big bullies should be quietly disappeared in public self-help. These lawyers, by their officious intermeddling, are ruining the lives of 1000's of people, including those of future crime victims. They deserve their proper fates.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 21, 2010 10:26:16 PM

imagine what the people pushing this would say if if someone wanted to start an all Moslem prison based on Islam in Oklahoma!

Posted by: virginia | May 22, 2010 11:11:51 AM

That idea was eloquently described in the Autobiography of Malcolm X. We would be skittish about an Islamic prison only because some have made war on the US. The content would have to be monitored and censored, to exclude promotion of violence. I read the hornbook on Sharia. Only 10% is wacky or threatening. Most of it is beneficial and far less procedural than current law. Prisoners could be helped to improve.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 23, 2010 8:55:00 AM

It is obviously unconstitutional, in light of the clause on cruel and unusual punishment.

Posted by: frank burnsf | Sep 6, 2011 1:24:34 PM

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