Monday, September 10, 2007

Rehabilitation of Religion

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (an agency of the Justice Department) is limiting the number of and what books in US Prisons. The New York Times Reports that "chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries."

Why you ask? It is because the BOP doesn't want American prisons to become breading grounds for radical religious extremists (read Muslims). Now I am not an expert but I can safely say that prisons are violent places and most religious texts (at some point) advocate for peace and learning. To pose a question to the BOP, if you take out the actual books and replace them with very upset violent criminals who will continue to seek religion and preach it to others, won't you just get radical religious extremists with nothing read?

But outside of this particular question, we must ask ourselves what is the point of prison? I feel and have since I got involved in the political world, that jail should be used for three things: rehabilitation, punishment and isolation. This is a very difficult triangle of issues but without the rehabilitation, prisons become a revolving door. Religion is a powerful tool to change a life. President Bush is a prime example of this and says so all the time. So why take out the learning?

Judaism teaches us that we are never done learning. I can only assume that other religions have similar kinds of teachings about Bible study etc. Why would society take away books from people who want to learn about ways to change their life if society has deemed their lives unacceptable? There shouldn't be violent teachings in these books, but over all religious books should be made available to people in jail.

Religion isn't something to be feared. It should be embraced and understood in the appropriate location; a prison chapel library is a prime example of an appropriate place to learn about faith. Just like any other ideology, making it illegal only makes it more radical. As people of faith we must do our work to insure that those seeking out holiness in the darkest places in society can find the light they need.

Call your member of congress to let them know that people of faith come in all different shapes, sizes and ideologies. Some are wealthy, some poor. Some in power and some in prison. We all are Americans and we all are responsible for the maintenance of the Constitution. We are strong for our liberties, especially those liberties in a places without freedom.

Please call the Bureau of Prisons at (202) 307-3198 or e-mail Or send an old fashion note, feel free to quote your favorite book of faith: Federal Bureau of Prisons, 320 First St., NW, Washington, DC 20534

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