Iowa Officials End Contract with Prison Program That Pushed Fundamentalism

Church & State, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Iowa Officials End Contract with Prison Program That Pushed Fundamentalism


Officials in Iowa have decided to sever ties with the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a controversial fundamentalist Christian program that became the focus of an Americans United lawsuit.

Officials terminated the program last month. "There will be no funds allocated or applied in any way," Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta told the Des Moines Register.

InnerChange is a project of Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship. In 1999, Iowa officials decided to set up the program in a special wing at the Newton Correctional Facility. Millions of dollars were subsequently funneled into the program, despite its fundamentalist Christian approach.

Americans United, representing inmates, their family members and taxpayers, sued the Iowa Department of Corrections over its support of InnerChange. A U.S. District Court ruled that InnerChange immersed inmates in religiosity and should not be funded with public dollars, a decision that was later upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

During the course of the litigation, Americans United discovered that inmates who participated in InnerChange received benefits not afforded to other inmates. For instance, InnerChange inmates were given better housing, quicker access to classes needed for parole and more contact with family members.

Moreover, InnerChange personnel and material often singled out other religions for degrading treatment. For example, InnerChange personnel told participants that a pope would be the Antichrist, belittled books of the Catholic version of the Bible and warned that inmates would suffer eternal damnation unless they became evangelical Christians. …

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