By Hemant Mehta
The Maury County jail in Tennessee has a bizarre program to help prisoners get adjusted to life back in the outside world: They’re allowed to leave prison in casual clothing with no armed supervision… to go to church. The only person with them is a “spiritual mentor.”
“Inmates are checked out by spiritual mentors who have been vetted through our jail chaplain and have been volunteers in our facility as mentors or program leaders and has completed TCI training for volunteers,” [Maury County Sheriff Bucky] Rowland said.
The churches aren’t told that prisoners are in the congregation. Rowland doesn’t see that as a problem, though: “They are going to church with sinners.” So what’s one more, right?
The “Church Work Release” program — it’s unclear what “work” is being done — began in December of last year and it has already created problems. One prisoner was “caught smuggling drugs and tobacco” back into the jail. That, however, appears to be the only stain on the program. Rowland says that prisoners must be near the end of their sentences (60 days from release) and have a clean disciplinary record to be allowed to go to an outside church. The program was temporarily suspended after the inmate brought back contraband, but it has since resumed.
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