Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brownback: Volunteers Needed for Prison Mentoring

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback abolished the parole board soon after taking office in January. Parole Board member Patricia Biggs expressed concern that abolishing the Parole Board could lead to decisions by Corrections Department officials to release prisoners to ease overcrowding, or, alternatively, to keep people in prison longer to justify expansion of staff or prisons.

In addition, she said the plan raises constitutional issues of due process of law for alleged parole violators, because the same agency responsible for bringing the accusation would also be responsible for deciding the defendant's guilt and punishment.

Now, Governor Brownback wants to recruit 5,000 volunteers to mentor inmates released from prison, according to the Kansas City Star. Murderers, rapist, armed robbers will have a faith based mentor to help them transition back into the community and stay in the community.

Brownback said he wants a mentor for each released criminal. “What we’re asking is for people of heart in all faiths and people of goodwill to come forward and help us out with this,” he told the Star. “We get it right, the cost to the state goes down, crime goes down in the state.”

Kansas officials say they release about 5,000 inmates a year and about 40 percent of them will return to prison within three years. Kansas believes if you provide faith based mentoring those inmates won't return to prison. Combining prison, parolees and faith is not a new concept.

The 19th century witnessed an infusion of faith based solutions to crime. Pennsylvania's Eastern Penitentiary was intended to keep convicts separate even as they worked, in order to prevent any earthly contamination or distraction that might impede their repentance—hence the term penitentiary. The solitary confinement of prisoners, so they could reflect and repent was viewed by some as worse than physical punishment and was was soon phased out.

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