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Jeb Bush opens a faith-based jail

January 9, 2004 | Page 2

ON CHRISTMAS Eve, Gov. Jeb Bush gave Florida's religious right a generous gift--the nation's first-ever faith-based prison. "I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our lord Jesus than to be here at Lawtey Correctional," Bush actually said to inmates. "God bless you."

Bush claims that the new program in Lawtey, Fla., will stop repeat offenders by "leading them to God" with religious studies, choir practice and religious counseling seven days a week. Lawtey will also offer classes in subjects such as "character building."

The program is voluntary, so the prison's 800 inmates were given a chance to relocate if they wished--111 have transferred out so far, but many who stayed said that they didn't necessarily agree with the program, but didn't want to move.

Think a faith-based prison might be a violation of the constitution and the separation of church and state? No way, says programming director Pastor Paul Smith. "The only thing that this program is a violation to is the devil, and the fact he wants to have more souls go to hell," Smith said.

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