Me in Prison (Snapshots and Faith-Based Programs)
Current mood: nerdy
Category: Religion and Philosophy
[Geri & me, Marion Correctional Institution, c. 2003]
Ohio prison warden drawing attention for religious programs
By The Associated Press
05 August 2003
MARION, Ohio — As well as starting more education and job training programs at the state prison here, Warden Christine Money has drawn national attention for programs that allow inmates greater freedom to exercise religious beliefs.
Promise Keepers, a Christian men’s group, will come to Marion Correctional Institution on Aug. 12 for its first rally behind bars.
But some civil liberties groups say they worry about a state institution promoting faith to a captive audience.
Inmates say calm has replaced rampant drugs and violence since the arrival of Money seven years ago.
“When I first got here in 1993, this place was unbelievable,” said John Burroughs, from Lorain, who is serving a seven- to 25-year sentence for rape. “This was a very evil, dark prison. I was scared for my life.”
Since Money’s arrival, drug offenses and violence against corrections officers and other inmates have almost disappeared, officials said. The prison also greatly reduced the number of grievances filed by inmates, which once averaged 100 a month. Last month, 12 were filed.
“It’s wonderful,” said Reginald Wilkinson, director of the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “I’d have that everywhere if I could. It sets the tone for the entire prison.”
Money, who came to Marion in 1996 from the state women’s prison at Marysville, has introduced or enhanced eight religious programs. Money also has helped create or improve secular programs, including a literacy initiative.
“It is the most rewarding thing to see men change,” said Money. “I have seen miracle after miracle.”
The prison’s Horizon interfaith dormitory, where 48 Christians, Jews and Muslims live in family units of six, will be honored by the American Correctional Association at its meeting Aug. 12 in Nashville, Tenn. The trade association for prison professionals, based in Lanham, Md., has 20,000 members.
About 900 inmates, more than half of the prison’s population of about 1,650, are expected to participate in the Promise Keepers rally the same day.
Willie Chapman, 36, from Columbus, has become so dedicated to the program that he was granted permission to delay his parole to attend. Chapman, serving six to 25 years for voluntary manslaughter, was to be released Aug. 11.
“If I done 15 years for a crime I did commit, I can spend one more day for God,” he said.
No taxpayer money will be used for the rally, Wilkinson said. The prison raised about $40,000 through churches and private donations, with Promise Keepers pitching in $100,000.
Still, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged the prisons director to drop the Promise Keepers event. The Washington-based group has filed lawsuits challenging events that combine government and religion.
“Government officials should never be in a position of sponsoring what amounts to a high-tech tent revival,” group spokesman Joe Conn said. “It’s clear they’ve gotten out on a legal limb. They need to come back in.”
The American Jewish Congress in New York also asked Wilkinson to withdraw support for Promise Keepers, saying the program seems to offer preferential treatment for inmates who participate.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is less concerned. Christine Link, the chapter’s executive director, said religion behind bars is not a problem, so long as all faiths have equal opportunity.
[article from http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=11790]
[Nolan White and me (as Ebenezer Shrew) in An Easter Carol,
a musical I co-composed while an inmate at M.C.I. in 2000]
||Currently reading :
We’re All Doing Time: A Guide to Getting Free
By Bo Lozoff
Release date: June, 1985