From Volume 78, Number 3 (March 2005)
On December 24, 2003, the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, attended a special Christmas Mass at a state correctional facility about forty miles north of Gainesville, Florida. More than just celebrating the Christian holiday with the prison’s almost 800 inmates, Governor Bush was attending a milestone in modern American criminal rehabilitation. He was there to dedicate the Lawtey Correctional Institution (“Lawtey”) as the nation’s first completely faith-based prison.
The conversion of Lawtey to a faith-based format is one of the most recent examples of the growing political trend to allow more open participation of religious organizations in government supported and funded social welfare programs. This trend is in line with the much talked about charitable choice provision, which allows religious groups access to federal welfare funds without having to establish a secular service provider component. The provision also allows religious groups to incorporate their religious message into social programs and to consider religion when hiring and disciplining employees.