"Crumlin Road" by GrimsbyT / CC BY-SA 4.0

Religion Shouldn’t Get Free Rein in Federal Prisons

Jan 7, 2019

By Andrew Seidel

As 2018 drew to a close, some on the political right and in the FOX News crowd raged because they discovered that the federal government funded the Nation of Islam, making it possible for the extreme group to go into prisons and minister to inmates. Well, if you’re angry about that — and you should be, though you should also take anything FOX News reports with a shaker of salt — then sit down, I’ve got a few things to tell you.

Religion has a significant presence in our prisons. Only 0.1 percent of federal inmates are atheists, a number significantly smaller than the country as a whole. But even so, religious groups also see prisons as mission fields. Prisons often have chaplains, and, despite the banner FOX headlines, they’re rarely from the Nation of Islam.

Prisons are a fertile ground for preachers. Not only are prisoners quite literally a captive audience, but there are a lot of them. America locks up more citizens than any other country.

We have a few obvious goals when it comes to imprisoning offenders. Safety: We lock people away so they can’t harm anyone else. Punishment: you broke the rules or violated someone’s rights and, as a result, you lose some of your rights. Rehabilitation: Some people have problems that the state can try to fix.

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