Hundreds of inmates at one of California’s highest-security prisons, where a fourth are mentally ill and most are serving time for violent crimes, have participated in a rehabilitation program affiliated with the Church of Scientology, which rejects traditional mental health care, reports the Los Angeles Times. The rehab program is offered at Corcoran State Prison by Criminon International, a secular arm of Scientology, a fierce opponent of psychiatry and antipsychotic drugs given to mentally ill prisoners to regulate their impulses and behavior.
Experts both in and outside the prison system say Criminon’s presence could undermine the ability of licensed clinicians to treat mentally ill inmates. They and others worry that if inmates reject therapy, they could pose a danger to themselves or others. Prison officials said they knew little or nothing about Criminon, although the Times found memos that indicate otherwise. It is unclear how Criminon’s program, which is voluntary and conducted by correspondence, began at Corcoran or other prisons. But a Criminon document obtained from Corcoran states that the program has been operating there for at least 15 years. It appears to have spread by word of mouth among inmates, with help from some prison employees.