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Archive for Friday, March 2, 2001

Spirituality

March 2, 2001

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Faith-based programs eyed for federal penitentiaries

Winfield Inmate Lincoln Williams crouches forward and clasps his hands nervously as he sits in the middle of a circle of prisoners at the Winfield Correctional Facility.

One by one, the other 15 prisoners take their turns. Each man looks him in the eye and says what he thinks of him. Some read him a Bible verse.

The session, called "Heart to Heart," is part of a faith-based prison program, The InnerChange Freedom Initiative.

It was introduced in 1997 in Texas with the enthusiastic support of then-Gov. George W. Bush. It was expanded in 1999 to the Newton Correctional Facility in Iowa and in 2000 to Kansas at Winfield. With Bush now in the White House, talks are under way to expand the program into federal penitentiaries.

Unlike traditional prison ministry programs, InnerChange has 24-hour-a-day oversight of inmates it recruits from throughout the state's prison system. The Christian program has its own building.

Prisoners, who volunteer for the program, do not have to convert to Christianity, but they must agree to listen to Christian teachings and attend Christian churches after their release.

Jewish groups in Rhode Island tightening security

Fearing anti-Semitic violence, Jewish groups in Rhode Island are tightening security in synagogues and community centers.

About 30 Jewish institutions across the state are installing alarm systems, surveillance cameras and other monitoring devices with funds from the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, The Providence Journal reported.

The Jewish Federation is spending $300,000 on the security.

The heightened security measures were prompted by the white supremacist who opened fire at a suburban Los Angeles Jewish community center two years ago, Jewish leaders say. But recent events have supported the decision to take extra precautions, they say.

There have been more than 200 anti-Semitic acts of violence in the world's major cities, including some in the United States, since the latest outbreak of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

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