Archive for Sunday, December 10, 2006

Senator calls for religion in prisons

Brownback takes campaign to jail

December 10, 2006


— Sen. Sam Brownback took his budding presidential campaign to prison this weekend, spent a restless night among inmates and pressed his message that faith can work even to improve the lives of hardened criminals.

The Kansas Republican had no expectation that the drug cartel hit man, serial rapist or other convicts in his cell block would vote for him. After all, about nine in 10 of the inmates are serving life sentences. His mission at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, rather, was to promote religious-based prison efforts to curtail violence and provide inmates with an alternative to crime once - or if - they get out.

On Friday night, Brownback joined hundreds of inmates at a prayer service before prison officials escorted him to his modest sleeping quarters. On Saturday morning, he emerged from his 7-by-10-foot cell to tour the maximum-security facility and take a walk down death row.

"There aren't probably a lot of votes for me here," he said. "There can be a lot of prayers, though."

On Monday, Brownback formed an exploratory committee that allows him to raise money for a possible run for president. He kicked off a multistate tour with a more conventional trip to Iowa on Tuesday before traveling to the prison.

About 90 percent of the 5,108 inmates at Angola are lifers. Half are convicted murderers. Eighty-five are on death row.

Burl Cain, the prison's warden since 1995, attributed a drop in violence at the prison to Angola's commitment to "moral rehabilitation" programs. The prison has six interfaith chapels, nightly prayer services, four part-time chaplains and a "Bible college" that has trained dozens of inmates to be ministers.

Brownback, 50, said programs such as Angola's can "break the cycle" that sends two-thirds of inmates back to prison after they are released.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., walks through the doors as he heads to a prayer service at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in Angola, La., on Friday. Brownback spent a night in the company of murderers and rapists less than a week after taking his first step toward a presidential run.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., walks through the doors as he heads to a prayer service at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in Angola, La., on Friday. Brownback spent a night in the company of murderers and rapists less than a week after taking his first step toward a presidential run.

"We don't want to build more prisons in the country," he said. "We don't want to lock people up. We want people to be good, productive citizens."

Sidney Deloch, an inmate who is 28 years into a life sentence, said faith-based programs also have made life better inside the prison.

"This prison used to be one of the bloodiest in the country," said Deloch, a Baptist minister at Angola. "It's still bloody because it's covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, and this blood is saving people's lives."

Brownback, an opponent of abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research, long has been a champion of religious conservatives. He also has been a staunch advocate of government's use of religious-based initiatives to combat poverty and crime.

"I believe in a separation of church and state, but I do not believe in a removal of faith from the public square," he told the prisoners. "Our motto of our land is, 'In God We Trust.'"

States with religious prison programs are watching how federal courts resolve a lawsuit by Americans United for Separation of Church and State against the state of Iowa, challenging a program run by Prison Fellowship Ministries. The ministry organization is appealing a federal judge's order to end the Iowa prison program and repay the state $1.53 million.

Brownback may face long odds against candidates with much better name recognition, but he hopes to broaden his appeal by accentuating issues such as prison reform and AIDS. He recently took an AIDS test with Sen. Barack Obama - an Illinois Democrat considering a presidential run, too - to encourage others to be tested.

Brownback, who also has stayed overnight at a Kansas prison and at a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C., said his night at Angola was a "little rough." One of the inmates on his cell block was a hit man for a drug cartel. Another was a serial rapist serving 19 life sentences.

"I didn't sleep the best," he said. "But to go and feel and smell it, I think it gives you a feel for something you just can't read about."

When he addressed the inmates on Friday, he assured them he is not "soft on crime." On Saturday, as he shook hands and chatted with prisoners on death row, one inmate pressed him for his stance on capital punishment. Brownback said he preferred it be "limited in its use."

"I only support it in cases where we can't protect society from a person who perpetuates the crime," he told the inmate.

Brownback was introduced to the inmates by Jorge Valdes, a convicted drug trafficker who earned a master's degree and a doctorate in New Testament studies after 11 years in prison. He now frequently counsels inmates at Angola.

"I would like to one day see an article that says, 'From the Big House to the White House.'" Valdes said, urging prisoners to get on their knees and pray for Brownback.


ASBESTOS 11 years, 3 months ago

Sam if ya wanna be a preacher and minister in the prisons, by all means do it. Please vacate your seat first.

KsTwister 11 years, 3 months ago

Another Senator who cannot produce results with Katrina, the economy, immigration,Iraq and important issues but he sure makes it obvious that the religious parties in America will give him a vote if he attracts their attention. Get a life Sam, you have raised the wages we paid you ten times and you still do nothing. You wasted all these years doing absolutely nothing worth writing about, don't go away mad just go away.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 3 months ago

Sam Brownback is loosing his mind! Good Lord, help him!

'From the Big House to the White House.'

LOL, we are trying to chase the crooks and felons OUT of washington.

Scott Tichenor 11 years, 3 months ago

Welcome to our hometown newspaper's "All Sam, All The Time" blitz. Tomorrow, line up for a chat about the most unknown of unknown presidential candidates. Just think, only two more years or this. This is the same paper that picked Ryun over Boyda and couldn't decide who was a better candidate for Kansas Attorney General. How out of touch is this with the voters of this state, not to mention the city it represents? Ah well, good thing is, the more we learn about this clown the more you realize how out of touch he is with the voters of this state and most of the country.

pelliott 11 years, 3 months ago

I think that the denial of voting rights is one more way to oppress the voices of poverty, races. Return the right to vote.

deec 11 years, 3 months ago

Will prisons offer religious ministries for Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu and Buddhist faiths as well?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 3 months ago

I wonder if Sam had a cell to himself, or if he had a "bunk-mate." Maybe this experience will change his view of gay marriage.

blackwalnut 11 years, 3 months ago

Read this long interview with Brownback in Rolling Stone magazine. It will open your eyes about Brownback and prisons. This is just another way to funnel federal taxpayer dollars to churches - a faith-based program to bring Christianity to prisons. A bribe to churches.

What did Brownback mean when he said he favors separation of church and state but did not believe in keeping religion out of government? That is a contradiction if I ever heard one. And I am being kind, I could have just called him a liar.

hilly 11 years, 3 months ago

wow right_thinker, let's just be a little bit more sterotypical and racist. Obama? So now he talks like a "white guy"? I'm going to take a wild guess and say you expected slang and every other word to be the n-word, huh? You know, because it is people's genetics to speak in a certain way and all...

Just my two cents.

On another note, I'm surprised no one said anything about Brownback's sweatshirt.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 3 months ago

Where have all the fundies gone? The right-wing nut jobs? right_thinker is pulling the plow all alone.

75x55, barclay, parkay, where art thou?

ASBESTOS 11 years, 3 months ago

Like me, they do not like Sammy. I am a Rep. and loathe the man. He truley is a disaster and is emblematic of what is wrong with the Republican party.

drewdun 11 years, 3 months ago

"Because you guys won't mind your own business and lay off Christians and Jesus and the Bible. Doesn't mean I'm a "fundie". What an intolerant, bigoted term. I thought you SP's were against intolerance and bigotry?" -rt

"won't mind your own business"

Hmmm, I thought snooping into others affairs was a platform plank of the right. rt, you must have forgotten about the abortion issue, gay marriage, anti-sodomy laws, and other social issues, not to mention the warrantless wiretapping issue.

"lay off Christians and Jesus and the Bible."

Yeah, that epidemic of liberals attacking Christians and Jesus and the Bible, man, that's savage. Give me a break, rt. I know you can do better than this. At least give us a plausible straw man argument from the right.

"You all are just not wired correctly or something, go check yourself into rehab"

The anger just keeps building. Must be the unprecedented unpopularity of his political messiah.

The racial dig at Obama shows exactly what kind of person rt is. And yes, I hate to inform you, rt, but you are a fundie. And a right-wing nutjob. Anyone that still supports Bush is almost by definition a right-wing nut job AND a fundie, fundie at least in the political sense.


Navin_R_Johnson 11 years, 3 months ago

holy lord you gotta be kiddin me!

the trailer park called and told many of ya to scat back to the house.

using the term 'fundie' dont go a hell of a long way to provin you sensitive dems as tolerant. you may say: "but navin, you're so droll, i've never ever used the term 'fundie.'"

don't matter, you still wail against these religious folks like THAT sort of bigotry is acceptable, and are noticeably silent toward the truly intolerant dopes out here. you must feel the same way. republicans have made a mess a things to be sure, but claiming the alternative is "tolerant" and sensitive" when the professing members of that side actually show so little of either, only goes along way into proving my point that dems ain't no real alternative and that they can rise to challenge repubs in the hypcrite department.

'right wing nut jobs?" you gotta be kiddin me! plenty of dems that fit that bill.

party affiliation and holdin any sense of loyalty to it by arguing either sides guys are better than the other, is sorta like a two humans on the outside of monkey cage choosing a favorite between a chimp and a baboon throwing pooh and screamin at one another.

theys both primates. they both is throwing the pooh. the both'll never rise above the level of idiot.

picking a favorite primate and ACTUALLY thinking (I mean truly believing in it like a religion) he's better, rises to the highest level pointlessness and the apex of human stupidity.



Navin_R_Johnson 11 years, 3 months ago

oh yeah, got rolling and lost my thought. my apologies!

and for those of you who think religion is evil but government is the good guy, you really ought to visit a mechanic and request him hit you in the head with a maul hammer, cuz you ain't got the sense of a turnip and need to be put out of society's misery.



deec 11 years, 3 months ago

I'll say again, will the prisons be as open to programs catering to other faiths, such as Judaism, Wiccan, Moslem, Hindu, and Buddhist? Will programs aimed at other faiths get the same level of funding or tolerance from prison officials?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 3 months ago

WOW that is all I got to say on this one. You guys have fun.

Mike Ford 11 years, 3 months ago

right thinker loves the fascist slant. Anyway, if they're talking about having religious freedom in prisons, they should include Indigenous religions. The reason that much bloodshed occurs in this world today is because many people used religious differences as a tool to judge, subjugate, and kill other people over. It's bad enough being in a white man's prison. It's even worse to have the same religion forced upon an Indigenous person as what was used in the previous prison system known as boarding schools. Christianity would be a great thing if maybe a quarter of it's followers lived up to it's tenets. The First Amendment should apply to everyone, not just those people who think they're chosen for what ever crazy reason they concoct.

GardenMomma 11 years, 3 months ago

"The Kansas Republican had no expectation that the drug cartel hit man, serial rapist or other convicts in his cell block would vote for him."

They can't vote for him, even if they wanted to. Convicted felons lose their right to vote. Or did the author of the story forget that little fact???

Kathy Theis-Getto 11 years, 3 months ago


Convicted felons in Kansas can vote once they are out of prison, and off parole or probation. In Louisiana, a felon can vote as long as they are no longer incarcerated. Just an FYI.

boldaq 11 years, 2 months ago

"Convicted felons in Kansas can vote once they are out of prison, and off parole or probation. In Louisiana, a felon can vote as long as they are no longer incarcerated. Just an FYI." - valkyrie, etc.

Wrong. Felons are kept from voting in every state but Maine and Vermont, although restrictions vary. FYI.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.