A Bible-based Iowa prison treatment program that has attracted national attention could be shut down July 1 because Iowa lawmakers decided not to renew its $310,000 state appropriation.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of Des Moines last year ruled that the program at the Newton prison violates the First Amendment’s clause barring government from the establishment of religion. But his order to close the program, in which inmates immerse themselves in evangelical Christianity, has not been enforced while an appeal is pending with the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The Iowa Legislature’s decision, however, could end the program before all court appeals are exhausted. (more)
Wow, this completely flew under the radar. Why didn’t this story come out during the legislative session? In a way I can understand not funding this program while it is going through the court process, but what is unbelievable to me is that some want this program to end anyway even as Prison Fellowship is seeking to fund it with private donations. State Rep. Todd Taylor (D – Cedar Rapids), the co-chair of the state prison budget subcommittee told the Register that he wants the IFI program terminated by July 1.
“I think it is unconstitutional,” Taylor said. “I want it shut down because I support the Constitution and I swear to uphold it.”
This is ludicrous. No one forces any inmate to participate in this program. It is completely voluntary. This is one of the few programs involved with the Iowa Department of Corrections that has actually made a significant dent in recidivism. The federal judge’s decision does not surprise me, but I believe it will be overturned. The General Assembly’s and Governor’s actions shouldn’t surprise me, and I hope they are overturned in the next elections. Leave it to them to try to end an effective program.
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