Nearly 800 Florida inmates will be given the option of doing time in the nation’s first prison dedicated to “faith-based” rehabilitation, says Cox News Service. Gov. Jeb Bush announced the plan at a White House-sponsored press conference in Tampa on President Bush’s efforts to give religious organizations a greater role in solving social problems. “For those individuals who are motivated to change their lives, programs like this can make a tremendous difference and create a pathway out of the criminal justice system,” the governor said.
The Lawtey Correctional Institution in rural Bradford County, with eight dormitories and 791 inmates, will house inmates who have volunteered. They must be within three years of completing their sentences and have had clean prison records for the previous 12 months. “To our knowledge, there is no other correctional system in the country that is operating a prison exclusively with faith-based programming,” said Florida Department of Corrections spokesman Sterling Ivey. Prisoners will receive religious-based classes in everything from parenting and character building to job training. Volunteers from religious groups will help inmates find work after their release. Florida already has 10 prisons with separate dorms for religious-based rehabilitation programs, and where there are waiting list to get in.
Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State has sued the Iowa prison system for a program similar to Florida’s.