Archive for Sunday, March 4, 2001

Success of prison program worth risk of church-state mix, Graves says

March 4, 2001

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— A Christian prison program partly supported by taxpayer money is worth "pushing the mark" separating church and state, Gov. Bill Graves said.

Graves was at the Winfield Correctional Facility for Friday's dedication of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a Christian ministry contracted by Kansas to work with inmates. Also attending were Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, Corrections Secretary Charles Simmons, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and several state lawmakers. Colson is a former inmate who went to prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

"I see the state searching for solutions to difficult questions," Graves said afterward. "If there is a point at which a faith-based program can get us the results we are seeking, I am comfortable ... giving it a chance."

The Kansas program is one of only three in the nation Texas and Iowa have the other two where a Christian program has 24-hour, 7-day-a-week oversight of the prisoners, who volunteer for it.

The Kansas program was started in March 2000, despite the belated dedication. About 130 prisoners, recruited from throughout the state's prison system, participate.

All three states pay each inmate's housing, clothing and food costs. Kansas and Iowa also pay half of the program's operating costs, such as staff salaries. The state's share is about $200,000 in Kansas; InnerChange pays the other half.

Graves said there is no doubt the national debate about separation of church and state is continuing.

"We think this is worth the risk pushing the mark, you might say, because of its success," the governor said.

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