Florida Gov. Jeb Bush went to a maximum-security prison for women on Easter and told them to embrace Christianity as a way to gain freedom from prison.
"I believe in my heart that if you accept Jesus and stay the course great things will happen to you," Bush told the prisoners, as reported by the Associated Press. "You know what will happen? Four times a year as governor of this state, I sit as a member of the clemency board, and I know I'm going to see you there. And the way you get there is to live your life the right way."
Bush was at the Broward Correctional Institution to laud faith-based programs as a way to improve lives. Joining Bush at the event, which also included religious songs, was Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Colson's prison ministry is supported with tax dollars in several state correctional systems and has been touted by President George W. Bush as an example of the "faith-based" initiative he wants to see in operation in America. Americans United is representing prisoners and family members in lawsuits challenging the funding of the Colson ministry in an Iowa prison.
At the Broward event, Gov. Bush added, "The joy I get as governor to sit and to see people come to seek the state's grace pales by comparison of the joy I know when people come to seek that grace they have already received by the grace of God. That is far more important."
On May 4, The Miami Herald reported that an agnostic female inmate at a Florida jail has filed a federal lawsuit after she was allegedly punished for not joining in a prayer circle as part of the jail's drug treatment program.
According to the lawsuit, the Jacksonville sheriff's office jailed Laurel Canton for refusing to participate in the prayer circle. Canton was sentenced to a year in jail in 2000 when she violated terms of her house arrest. A judge recommended she participate in the jail's drug program. She argues in her lawsuit that when she refused to participate in the drug treatment's prayer circle, her jail term was extended by several weeks.