The Evangelical leader Charles W. Olson had promoted his dream of a 'Christian prison' for years. After he was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal, this former aid of President Nixon was released from jail in 1975. He founded then, the Prison Fellowship Program in 1976. This program developed rapidly, on a national and international scale, supported by private donations. In the United-States, it provides Bible studies and seminars to more than 200,000 inmates (roughly 10% of the total prison population). But regular worships were not enough to fulfil Olson's will, he believed in, 'creating a prison environment that fosters respect for God's laws and the rights of others, and to encourage the spiritual and moral regeneration of prisoners'. At the Humanita prison in Brazil, Olson had the opportunity to discover what a private Christian charity prison is. Impressed by the atmosphere of peace in the facility, as well as the low rate of recidivism, Olson was even more eager to export this concept to the US. This intrusion of 'churches behind bars' is not a recent phenomenon in the US. Let's just remind the prison chaplaincies, the involvement of Quakers for ex-convicts rehabilitation or, as many studies show, the influence of religious principles in the conception of modern prisons. Clear goes as far as to say that "the history of incarceration is intimately intertwined with religious movements" . However, it seems that public authorities will to encourage the growing incursion of churches in prisons reveals a recent evolution, which becomes visible through the proliferation of faith-based programs. A faith-based prison program refers to a dorm or an entire prison managed by religious volunteers, aiming at reducing recidivism through 'spiritual transformation'. In fact, faith-based prison programs are overwhelmingly conducted by evangelical churches. Obviously, evangelical movement is diverse and divided. Volunteers come from a wide range of local churches, more or less institutionalized.
[...] As for evangelical churches, it is a religious duty to accomplish; has sent me to bind up the broken- hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”, Isaiah 61:1 says. Moreover, religious freedom is an individual right recognized even in custody, as a result of prisoners' rights movements in the 1960s; another reason to justify an “intrusion of church behind bars” that goes beyond the sole chaplaincies. Above all, a shared ideological background is essential to justify the project. [...]
[...] Available statistics show that non-Christian faith affiliations are very little. In Lawtey faith-based prison (Florida), Muslim clergy is in charge of of the inmates, Jewish leaders In fact, the most part of religious variations are among different evangelical churches. The core of the cooperation is a “division of tasks” between church and state. State provides the audience, the facilities, subsidies, and deals with the security inside prison. The management of the full-time program is entirely in the hands of the religious staff. Participants are altogether in a separate unit. [...]
[...] At the time of the great rehabilitative hope of the Jacksonian reformers, one prison chaplain said: “Could we all be put one prison fare, for the space of two or three generations, the world would be the better for it By changing the very nature of human beings, will church and state, altogether in faith- based prison, model a better world? reigns at Angola”, affirms Burl Cain, creator of faith-based program in one of the “nation toughest prison”. And he adds: has made Angola more peaceful that New Orleans”. [...]
[...] The report of the US courts explains in details the arguments used to condemn InnerChange It leads us to further interrogations over church and state collaboration The Iowa Case: is the state financing “religious indoctrination”? In its decision, the Federal Court shows that the Iowa Department of Corrections directly financed InnerChange between 2000 and 2004. Hence, the Court must whether the government acted with the purpose of advancing or inhibiting religion, and . whether the aid has the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion.”, in order to determine whether this financial support violates the Establishment Clause. [...]
[...] Beyond the description of faith-based prison programs, the aim of this study is to explore the historical roots and current dynamics of the interrelation between Church and State in the US prison system. I seek to understand the underlying beliefs and justifications, as well as the interests of both actors in this collaboration and the potential tensions that can emerge. To answer those questions, I rely on press articles, as well as scientific reports published by public, juridical institutions and NGOs. [...]
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