Jails For Jesus: An Update

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Today the NYT has a long piece on the status of taxpayer funded, faith-based programs aimed at captive audiences, like prisoners and rehab patients.

That’s a story that Mother Jones reported back in 2003, in Samantha Shapiro’s piece: “Jails for Jesus.” In it she chronicles how Prison Fellowship Ministries—a group founded by Watergate’s Chuck Colson—got backing from then-Gov and now President Bush to preach to inmates via its InnerChange program. As Samantha writes:

InnerChange represents the cutting edge of President Bush’s faith-based initiatives, which seek to have religious groups take over social services once provided by state and federal agencies and, in so doing, fulfill two goals dear to many conservatives: bringing more people to Christ and shrinking government.

Prison Fellowship Ministries is a $56 million dollar a year operation, and given its treatment record of those who do not see the light, in June a federal judge ruled in that PFM’s InnerChange program amounted to an unconstitutional use of taxpayer money for religious indoctrination. That case is now on appeal, which is what the NYT details. What the paper declined to get into is the really juicy stuff that Samantha reported, namely:

* InnerChange’s programs, which include perks like pizza parties and music lessons to the inmates who sign up, are largely paid for the canteen and exhorbitant phone rates that the general prison population pays for out of the wages they earn from stamping plates or answering customer service calls.

*InnerChange promises to “cure” homosexuality via exposure to Christ—not perhaps surprising, since Colson hawks a brochure he wrote called “Rick Santorum Is Right”—through a form of therapy its officials told Samantha was “a little like AA for homosexuals.” The encounter group, she was told, would be led by a man who “had a reputation across the state for being a flaming homosexual,” while the other two members were “former cross-dressers.” Samantha was then ushered into a room, unattended by any staff or guards, where it became evident that the inmates undergoing therapy

“were not simply ‘cross-dressers’ but serious sex offenders; Hoffman said he’d attempted to sodomize a blind man, and Gavin had sodomized his four-year-old daughter. Hoffman attended InnerChange because he’d been thrown out of the state-run sex-offender program, which Gavin had completed.”

As Samantha notes:

“Letting Christ-based programs ‘cure’ sex offenders—exempting them from state programs that employ aversion therapy and normative counseling, and releasing them into society armed primarily with polemics about sin—seems risky, to say the least, but [InnerChange official Larry] Furnish is confident the state will go for it. ‘We already offer GED, substance-abuse, and pre-release programs. If we get sex-offender treatment, we’ll have the whole ball of wax for the state at a bargain-basement price,’ he said.”

That’s your tax dollars at work, folks.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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