Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whitmire, Patrick suggest seminary inside prison

Reports Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman:

After visiting a once-violent Louisiana prison that is now ranked as one of the most tame thanks to a minister-training program, two key state senators today proposed bringing the concept to Texas.

The proposal is to locate a religious seminary inside a Texas lockup.

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, and Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, a member of the committee, said they think that the rehabilitation project that has worked well at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola could be just as successful in Texas.

Whitmire and Patrick spent three days last week at the Angola lockup, once ranked as the most violent prison in America, along with representatives of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Bible College.

“I found this to be a remarkable program that Sen. Patrick and I will present to state leadership and the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and will work with Texas prison officials to locate the right unit, the right warden, and the right staff to duplicate the effort in Texas,” Whitmire said.

“It certainly deserves the attention of our state leaders and prison officials.”

As the largest maximum-security prison in the United States with about 5,000 violent-crime felons — more than 3,600 of them serving life sentences — the prison now houses an arm of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary which provides a four-year program that so far has trained about 150 ministers.

In Texas, Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth has sometimes been the domain of feuding factions of Baptists, which makes me wonder which religious group would be chosen for such a task and whether that might generate unforeseen controversy? Will the seminary train Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Unitarians, Muslims, Wiccans? Quien sabe? Moreover, each of those groups has internal factions to contend with; none are monolithic and the brand of religion taught will inevitably fail to match every taste.

Depending on how they implement it I suppose there could be some establishment clause problems, but in general I see this as basically just a job training program, not much different than if they decided to train groups of inmates as yoga instructors who would then provide classes to their peers. Not everybody can or should be a preacher, though (particularly not everybody in prison - there are enough charlatans in the field already!) and I wish there was a broader focus on providing meaningful job skills in emerging industries.

21 comments:

Red Leatherman said...

Criminals training to be televangelist and filling many other positions in a ordained capacity isn't news to me.

ckikerintulia said...

As a Baptist committed to separation of church and state, (as Baptists have traditionally been) this smelleth bad to me.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they should start by allowing Death Row inmates to have church services. It is my understanding that currently they cannot even meet for services or hold Mass.

Anonymous said...

Death row inmates aren't going to be meeting for anything anytime soon, 8:17.

Anonymous said...

They should provide meaningful job training programs and leave the "jail-house religion" to those who'd want to pursue that on their own once they are released.

We don't need a bunch of preachers in prison trying to convert the masses. What we do need is more real vocational training so inmates can get real jobs once they are released.

sunray's wench said...

And for those who aren't Christian of that particular flavour or any other?

There are already heavy leanings towards Christian-based conditions for parole. It is NOT rehab of any kind, and doesn't help inmates get a job and keep it upon release. I'm not against it as an extra, but I do not believe that any religion has the right to interfere with corrections policy.

Texas Maverick said...

Grits, As I read the report, associates of Texas Bible College were part of the trip to Angola.(Texas Bible College: Endorsement of the Board of Christian Education of the United Pentecostal Church International was granted in September 1962. Texas Bible College began its operation with the enrollment of its pioneer class in January 1964.) Before we start tearing this apart at least read or listen to what the results were at Angola. If this is working and helping somewhere else, then maybe we can apply the A.A. principle of H.O.W., Honest, Open-minded, Willing, before we throw the baby out with the bathwater. Contempt before investigation leads us to where we are within the system today.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Maverick, please quote back to me the portion of this post that displayed "contempt."

I noted potential practical problems with implementation and said I viewed it just like any other in-prison job training program, which I wish were both more numerous and diverse.

Anonymous said...

totally agree with the job training. they could do both. but definetly the job training!!!!

sfenn said...

You know, Scott, I read Maverick's post as being aimed at some of the folks posting comments, not at your original post. I don't mean to put word's in M's mouth, but his message was very appropriate to some of the comments. I hope that everyone will study this and give it a chance. There are so few programs available to our inmates.

Anonymous said...

Rehabilitation is a fantasy so stop trying to BS everybody!!!
All of people who are in or have been in prison are worthless, dishonest individuals. There is no work we should be allowed to enter as felons. As for church I quit going after one of the holy ones felt it necessary to recount my criminal past of 30 plus years ago to a person I worked with. Felons are not even second class citizens and can never redeem themselves no matter what they accomplish in life. I hold university degrees, one of which is in Theology form a Baptist institution of higher learning here in Texas. Even decades after any criminal activity (non-violent) I am not good enough for any meaningful work. Let's stop kidding ourselves and the felons about rehabilitation because it is pointless. Go to prison and learn how to be a good criminal. Get all the education you can at tax payers' expense and then use it to make yourself rich by screwing all the people who are so much better than you. Hell it is what they expect from you! Give the anointed ones what they beg for, take all you can from them. Don't worry about God striking you down for taking the holy ones to the cleaners because most of them have no clue about Matthew 25 and who Christ calls his own. The dumb animals don't realize what they really are; goats not sheep. As Billy Graham once lamented, "I fear 80% of the people in church on Sunday are lost." All of you Good People should not bitch when you get nailed by a Felon because you demanded it! As a side note, many of the holy ones would be shocked to learn actions in their life would constitute a felony if all was known about them. Even doing things with oysters could make you a felon!!! The rumors about Grits and oysters is totally unfounded, they couldn't get the oyster to talk!

john said...

While Patrick is a well-known Christian and this would meet his need to evangelize, doesn't anyone recall seeing the third "Aliens" movie?!! While the REAL focus should perhaps be stop locking up folks for tiny minor revenue-raising infractions (so that the USA has the most folks in prison in the world); As Twain said Congress is the only native criminal class, WHY NOT just train the criminals to be politicians??!!

sunray's wench said...

I'm actually wondering how many days Senator Whitemire has spent inside a TDCJ prison recently. I doubt it is as many as 3 days.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"I doubt it is as many as 3 days."

I'd take that bet. Say what you will about Sen. Whitmire, he takes his job seriously and devotes more time to it in the off-season than a lot of legislators. I see local news items about him visiting this or that facility quite frequently.

sunray's wench said...

Scott, if Sen. Whitmire is such a frequent visitor, he is obviously not talking to the right people when he is there. Otherwise he would not be so surprised to hear that inmates can received emailed messages. Perhaps he should talk to a few inmates as well as the Wardens.

Anonymous said...

GREAT IDEA!!!!In prior years there were some courses that the Inmates took on a volunteer basis if they were interested, the Southern Baptist provided the Study Guides free, I think there was about 8 different courses. Word from Inmates where, wished I had known this before, this is the first time I have ever heard anything like this, this totally changed my life, I got set free from my dysfunctional life choices, and on and on went the positive reports. Never received one negative. It is apparent what is going on is not working for sure. So what is it to you if a person chooses to reach out to find something that makes a different in his/her life? I don't understand the bitter-hatred that so many people wish so many people bad and evil. Maybe if someone had been available earlier in their lives that cared they would not be locked up and left a stream of victims in their path.Our world is full of resentments, hatred, revenge, wishing people bad, anger, ... so far it has not improved our world so why not try Love, Forgiveness, Kindness, Peace, mixed with a little joy to see someone reaching out for a change in their lives.

Franz said...

Separation between state and church!
Separation of Powers in modern democracies!
It seems that Christ or Jesus or Believe was and is still used more or less but as an instrument, a welcome excuse covering own doing for profit if required.
- Accusation Not Wanted (in Germany) by Roth, Nuebel, Fromm;
- Karl Heinz Deschner, Criminal History of Christianity (only in German language so far) - published besides Opus Diaboli, Policy of Popes in the 20ies Century, Topless, Memento;
- Jens Soering The Church of the Second Chance - A Faith-Based Approach to Prison Reform, Lantern 2008.
Are Pharisees basically conservative and innocent saints and continued with all crimes they brought with from Columbus and Cort├ęs and Pizarro, from Calvin and Loyola, from Pilgrims to "It was the LORD's Doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes... that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day" (Dr. Cotton Mather) to "Only a dead Indian is a good Indian".

Seminary inside is good if it is part of reintegration process after release. http://www.internationalcure.org/newsletters/11-Winter08.pdf

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Anonymous said...

After seeing Dan Patrick on 20/20 last year, I find it extremely hard to believe that he is a Christian. He certainly doesn't believe Matthew 6:14-15 or Hebrews 13:3-5. However, I do believe that this could be a good idea and help some. Cathy

Anonymous said...

You can bet the inmates in that "tame" Louisiana prison unit were carefully selected because they were either tame to begin with or good at feigning it.

The implication that violent offenders were tamed by the spirit of Jesus is ludicrous. Haven't Patrick and Whitmire heard the saying "I found Jesus in prison but I lost him on parole."

Anonymous said...

Angola in Louisiana is mainly full of people who are in for life or for a *long* time