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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200573 Find in a Library
Title: Redemption or Rehabilitation?: Charitable Choice and Criminal Justice
Journal: Criminal Justice Policy Review  Volume:14  Issue:2  Dated:June 2003  Pages:214-228
Author(s): Sheila Suess Kennedy
Date Published: June 2003
Page Count: 15
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article identifies and discusses the challenges faced by corrections managers who must address the constitutional issues involved when faith-based criminal justice programs involve the evangelizing of the participants.
Abstract: In 1996 Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Among the provisions of this bill is a "Charitable Choice" requirement that States contract with faith-based social service providers on the same basis as they contract with other nonprofit service groups. Neither the legislation nor representatives of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has defined what "faith-based" means for purposes of Charitable Choice initiatives or explained how these faith-based organizations (FBOs) differ from the religious entities that have been in partnership with government in providing services to citizens for decades. State agencies are constitutionally required to ensure that government funds go only to support secular activities. Consistent with this requirement, the original Charitable Choice legislation prohibits the use of tax dollars for proselytizing and prohibits conditioning service delivery on participation in religious activities. Public managers are responsible for ensuring compliance with these restrictions; however, States have limited managerial resources with which to monitor program content for constitutional compliance. Also, there is a requirement that secular alternatives be provided for program participants who do not want a faith-based provider. Public managers must identify such alternatives and fund them. This should not present a problem in urban areas, but it can be a challenge in more rural States or rural areas, where alternative providers may not be convenient or even available. Further, many drug treatment and prison programs provided by FBOs have religious conversion as a primary element in their treatment goals. Funding for such programs, notably Teen Challenge and Prison Fellowship Ministries, is clearly funding for religion and, under decades of First Amendment jurisprudence, is constitutionally prohibited. Many constitutional scholars believe that a voucher program would be legally and practically preferable to direct contractual relationships between FBOs and government agencies. Such an approach could allow religiously infused drug treatment programs to participate; however, it would not solve the practical and constitutional dilemmas posed by prison ministries, nor would it resolve the debate over accreditation requirements for government contractors. 7 notes and 18 references
Main Term(s): Corrections policies
Index Term(s): Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Drug treatment programs; Federal aid; Federal legislation; Federal programs; Inmate drug treatment; Religion; Religious programs
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