Time Served for God Behavior?

When not off and about frightening young children with the threats of hellfire and damnation, it seems evangelicals have taken a likin’ to another captive audience: inmates.

Life was different in Unit E at the state prison outside Newton, Iowa.

The toilets and sinks, white porcelain ones, like at home, were in a separate bathroom with partitions for privacy. In many Iowa prisons, metal toilet-and-sink combinations squat beside the bunks, to be used without privacy, a few feet from cellmates.

The cells in Unit E had real wooden doors and doorknobs, with locks. More books and computers were available, and inmates were kept busy with classes, chores, music practice and discussions. There were occasional movies and events with live bands and real-world food, like pizza or sandwiches from Subway. Best of all, there were opportunities to see loved ones in an environment quieter and more intimate than the typical visiting rooms.

But the only way an inmate could qualify for this kinder mutation of prison life was to enter an intensely religious rehabilitation program and satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress.

“Acceptable spiritual progress?” What, exactly, is the metric by which one evaluates such a thing? Ah, yes, “is the prisoner parroting the same nonsense I’ve been spewing at him for six months?”

Hey, I’m fine with prisons teaching skills that are valuable on the outside, for the drive to rehabilitate rather than just punish and release, but this is one of those cases in which “god is for suckers” comes to mind. Let’s see, I pretend to have found Jesus and I get special treatment; I don’t find Jesus and it’s time to piss in a shiny metal bowl every morning and stare at cinder blocks for fun.

Tough choice.

The prisons are already full of self-professed Christians. Perhaps if we want to see a real change, we should be teaching them that god is a myth and all we have is one another.

Nah, the churches would never allow that: no money in it.

Leave a Reply