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Prison Religion

Prison Religion: Faith-Based Reform and the Constitution

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Prison Religion
    Book Description:

    More than the citizens of most countries, Americans are either religious or in jail--or both. But what does it mean when imprisonment and evangelization actually go hand in hand, or at least appear to? What do "faith-based" prison programs mean for the constitutional separation of church and state, particularly when prisoners who participate get special privileges? InPrison Religion, law and religion scholar Winnifred Fallers Sullivan takes up these and other important questions through a close examination of a 2005 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a faith-based residential rehabilitation program in an Iowa state prison.

    Americans United for the Separation of Church and State v. Prison Fellowship Ministries, a trial in which Sullivan served as an expert witness, centered on the constitutionality of allowing religious organizations to operate programs in state-run facilities. Using the trial as a case study, Sullivan argues that separation of church and state is no longer possible. Religious authority has shifted from institutions to individuals, making it difficult to define religion, let alone disentangle it from the state.Prison Religioncasts new light on church-state law, the debate over government-funded faith-based programs, and the predicament of prisoners who have precious little choice about what kind of rehabilitation they receive, if they are offered any at all.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3037-4
    Subjects: Law, Religion, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-18)

    What is the faith in “faith-based”? After ten years of public policy promoting the greater integration of faith-based organizations into the ranks of government funded social service providers, the nature and role of faith in this effort remains elusive. This book takes a close look at a recent trial concerning one such faith-based provider with a view to understanding better what faith-based reform is about and why so many Americans think it makes sense.

    In December 2006, in Des Moines, Iowa, a U.S. District Court judge found unconstitutional a faith-based, in-prison rehabilitation program operating in the Newton Facility of the...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The God Pod
    (pp. 19-63)

    The Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) was established in 1983. Its purpose was to centralize and modernize county correctional agencies and to begin to address overcrowding in prisons.¹ Iowa had had a history of penal progressivism, but, like most of the rest of the United States, it was dealing in the early eighties with what, in retrospect, was just the beginning of the trend toward massive incarceration. The total inmate count for Iowa on October 1, when the DOC was created, was 2,650, housed in seven prisons. By 2006, at the time of theAU v. PFMtrial, the inmate...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A Prison Like No Other
    (pp. 64-93)

    The Iowa version of InnerChange Freedom Initiative was described in the previous chapter primarily from the perspective of the prisoners who testified at the trial. A few had graduated. Others had decided not to apply, had withdrawn, or were dismissed from the program. Some of prisoners testified on behalf of the plaintiffs and some for the defendants. Many other stories about IFI could be told. This chapter describes IFI’s own presentation of its purpose and practices in the context of the complex and contested history and practice of U.S. evangelical Christianity, as it is broadly understood, a context notoriously resistant...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Biblical Justice
    (pp. 94-139)

    “I know about my wrongs. I can’t forget my sin. You are the one I have sinned against. I have done what you say is wrong. So you are right when I speak. You are fair when you judge me.”¹ Thus speaks King David God, translated into contemporary English, inThe Sycamore Tree Project, PFM’s curriculum to foster offender-victim reconciliation. The project, the instructor’s manual declares, “deals with sin and its consequences, with offenders and victims, offering a biblical model of transformation.” The offender and the victim are invited to understand themselves and their relationship to each other, as the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Way We Live Now
    (pp. 140-179)

    A striking and significant asymmetry between the evidence offered by the plaintiffs and that offered by the defendants in the Iowa case was that the latter offered no expert testimony on religion, either religion in general or any specific religion, either to support their case or to rebut the expert testimony that the plaintiffs offered. The defendants relied on the testimony of IFI staff and prisoners to prove that their program was neither religious nor an establishment of religion within the meaning of the First Amendment. The implication of not offering expert testimony was that an American judge can evaluate...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Beyond Church and State
    (pp. 180-226)

    The plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Iowa trial argued that Iowa’s contract with IFI was “a law respecting an establishment of religion” within the meaning of the First Amendment because prisoners of the State of Iowa were effectively coerced into participating in a pervasively religious rehabilitation program intended to transform the prisoners’ relationship “to God, Christ and their fellow man” (p. 2297). The defendants’ lawyers responded that the Iowa contract is not “a law respecting establishment of religion,” because prisoners freely chose to participate in the program, which was designed to reduce recidivism and instill universal, secular moral values. The plaintiffs...

    (pp. 227-236)

    IFI and PFM are, in part, the distinctive products of a peculiarly American convergence of religious renewal and law-and-order politics. But they are also formations of the modern secular that exemplify a larger convergence, one that increasingly focuses on the rule of law and a distinctively modern form of religion as the twin solutions to our current global predicament. How these two might be related in such an imagined future is not obvious, but the example of IFI and of the U.S. faith-based movement generally suggests that responsibility for reconciling the two will often passed on to the social service...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 237-272)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-292)
  13. Index
    (pp. 293-305)