Captive Audience: Gov. Bush Spreads Religion In Fla. Prisons

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his Department of Corrections continue their drive to bring Christianity to as many of the state's prisoners as possible. Because as Bush said last December at the inauguration of the state's first full-fledged, "faith-based" prison, inmates need the chance "to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus."

On Wednesday, a second "faith-based" prison was opened. The Hillsborough Correctional Institution in Tampa confines about 300 women and opens five months after the Christmas Eve dedication of the men's faith-based prison -- the Lawtey Correctional Institution in North Florida. (The state also has at least nine prisons operating "faith-based" dorms.)

Civil liberties activists were displeased with Bush's latest move. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director told the Associated Press, "It's incredibly irresponsible to open a second facility when so many constitutional and practical questions remain about the first facility."

The religious conversion of prisons is apparently apart of Bush's pledge, made during his first inaugural address, that the state government would pursue a "moral and spiritual awakening." Although all faiths will reportedly be allowed to offer religious instruction and other services at the faith-based prisons, most of the programs are expected to be Christian.

The Hillsborough set-up mirrors Lawtey's, where religious instruction and exercises are the tools used to reform, rehabilitate and, no doubt, convert as many inmates as possible. A spokeswoman for Bush said Hillsborough promises to provide "an environment that allows and encourages personal growth, self-reflection and character development."