Nation's First Faith-based Women's Prison Opened

( [email protected] ) Apr 16, 2004 02:25 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE – The nation’s first faith-based prison for women was opened in Hillsborough County in Tallahassee, Fl., allowing greater role of religious organizations in the county.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced Thursday about the opening of Hillsborough Correctional Institution, the nation’s first faith-based prison for women, and that the faith-based programs offered at the prison would be running separately without relying on state funds.

The 300-bed facility is hoping to accomplish its goal of reducing recidivism rate by allowing greater role of religious organizations in the county. The Hillsborough inmates will be offered life skills classes such as anger management and parenting, along with vocational training and religious services beyond what is offered in traditional prisons.

Various Christian organizations, about 300 of them, are supporting the program. A deputy chief executive of one of the supporting organizations, Abe Brown Ministries, Robert Blount, pointed out that faith-based programs help inmates to have fewer disciplinary problems.

``Those who are very serious about their faith are very committed to changing their lives, doing the right thing and getting on the right path,'' he said.

``These are inmates that are going to be released back into our communities, and they want to change their belief mechanism,'' said Sterling Ivey, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, ``They do not want to return to prison. They do that by investing in a higher power and changing their true belief system. They are changing their character as they prepare for release.''

There are some criticisms coming out from the groups who are not supportive of faith-based programs such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State. However making efforts to implement faith-based programs wouldn’t seem to stop.

Ivey said the corrections department is ``cognizant of the legal ramifications of what we're doing. However, we're not letting it stop us from delivering the mission.''

During a Capitol symposium on Thursday, where many religious organizations gathered, Gov. Bush said, ``It is voluntary, it is constitutionally sound, it is the right thing to do, and we are going to do it in a way that will be a model for the country.''

Along with his brother President George Bush, Gov. Bush has started several faith-based initiatives at the state level with the goal of strengthening families and marriages and improving children's lives. He said, ”Government will never be the sole answer to the problems that exist in our society.”