Prison Super Bowl Party Raises Funds for House of Worship February 8, 2011

Prison Super Bowl Party Raises Funds for House of Worship

A prison in Kansas allowed prisoners to use their own accounts to buy pizza and chicken wings, with a cut of all the costs going back to the prison… for a house of worship:

The order, which will cost more than $11,000, is part of a fundraiser for the Hutchinson Correctional Center’s planned Spiritual Life Center. The prison will be getting 942 large, hand-tossed pizzas at $8 apiece and will charge inmates $11, with about $3,000 going toward the center.

The Hutchinson News reported that only inmates with good behavioral records got the chance to order pizza and chicken wings for Sunday.

I’m not surprised the money’s going to a Spiritual Life Center — atheists usually don’t end up in prison, if the statistics are accurate — but since this is a state prison, no money should be going to promote religion. How could anyone in a prison break the law like that?! Oh, right…

In case you doubt how inclusive the Spiritual Center is, check out its website:

This is a non-profit project designed to give inmates of all faiths a modern and inspirational space to hold worship services and foster spiritual growth. As a non-profit organization, our goal is to raise community awareness and funds in order to proceed with the project, which will be a benefit not only to the inmates and their families, but also to the Hutchinson and Kansas communities.

Unless you’re not religious or you’re someone who respects the Constitution.

It’s not like Humanists can use the center, either. According to reader Peggy:

The correctional facility in El Dorado, Kansas used these same fundraising tactics and have since denied access to their 1.5 million [dollar] Spiritual Life Center to a group of Humanist prisoners who wish to meet [in there]. The prisoner who has tried for two years to be able to have a Humanist group has been thwarted at every turn and the local A.C.L.U. has basically told him that the Correctional Facility is a “Kingdom” and he is just S.O.L.

***Update***: Peggy sent me an update reading:

I have since spoken with the Deputy Warden of programs at the facility and she has indicated that the new facility will be available for all inmates to use regardless of belief or non-belief systems.

They currently have a Wiccan group which meets… and are actively looking for a Humanist volunteer chaplain to conduct call out groups.

The facility in Hutchinson is about 180° different in philosophies than the similar correctional facility in El Dorado which is only an hour and a half away. The leadership differences between the two facilities are night and day. I would say that this satisfies my concerns that this might have been an event which violated the constitution.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • So a prisoner has $11 and buys a pizza. He’s been a model prisoner and it is his money. Fair enough. This luxury might well promote good behaviour in others and certainly rewards it and keeps the prisoners happy. The prison gets $3 presumably as some kind of admin charge. The Spiritual Life Center gets $8. This covers their costs and includes a modest profit. Presumably they’re being taxed on this business transaction and this is separate from the church?


    I wonder if Pizza Hut could undercut them?

    EDIT: Forget that. Apparently it was Pizza Hut who actually made them

  • Nerdette

    Yay, El Dorado. I love how I only learn about my hometown when they do idiotic things.

    Though, a couple of comments. El Dorado prison houses the biggest and baddest of the bad guys in Kansas (BTK, the Carr brothers), so it’s really no surprise that they take this hard stance. Doesn’t make it fair, but it’s not surprising. I had friends growing up who did part time work at the prison, and they reported nothing good about the management or the prisoners, but I guess that makes it no different than any other job or prison.

  • Silent Service

    Too many of our prisons are treated like warehouses for human garbage. I’m glad that at least one is trying to provide some kind of guidance to the people under their management with an eye toward rehabilitation. I kind of wish it were more along an educational line, but I’ll take what we can get.

  • OverlapingMagisteria

    I don’t see the problem with building the spiritual center. Many prisoners have spiritual “needs” and would benefit from it. It’s not even using taxpayer money, so no one is forced to pay for something they don’t believe in.

    The issue of discriminating against Humanists is definitely a problem though, and needs to be addressed.

  • so long as anyone can use the facility i’m ok with it. rather than complain about religion in prisons, i’d rather complain (and act and advocate policy changes) about prison conditions in general. rape, drug use, brutality, torture… all this and more is utterly commonplace in our prisons. people like to think we’re civilized in the US, but our prison system demonstrates how far we still have to go. and don’t get me started on non violent marijuana offenders sharing space with serial killers on the taxpayer dime. we could improve the conditions of our prisons overnight, simply by eliminating laws against marijuana. and save millions in the process.

  • Robert W.

    Here is a link that questions your statistics on Atheists in prison:

  • Eli

    You’ve quoted these statistics several times in your blog, and it’s a really interesting point, but it’s somewhat taken without context. I’d be intrigued to see a longitudinal study of religion and imprisonment — whether fewer atheists are imprisoned in the first place or whether people tend to turn to religion in times of despair. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that religiosity is often highest in the poorest areas of the country (not to mention in hospitals!).

  • Sachi Wilson

    I used to be an attorney for a state department of corrections. The laws actually require prisons to accommodate the prisoners’ religious beliefs. Looking at it from a first amendment perspective, there’s nothing wrong with providing a facility for prisoners to exercise their religion. The problem would come if the prison compelled the prisoners to use the facility.

  • Vas

    Here is a link that questions your stance on evolution:

  • Vas

    Here is a link that questions equal protection under the law of GLBT people:

  • Vas

    Here is a link that questions the validity of psychiatry:

  • Heidi

    Here is a link that questions that whole Round Earth thing.

  • PegK

    I don’t think the issue here is having a spiritual center. That is obviously O.K. It is the fact that the prison was providing a special privilege to inmates in which the monies would in turn benefit a religious center. What prisoner would turn down the privilege of purchasing pizza because they disagreed with where the profits were being used? It smacks a bit of coercion and inmates were not given the option of their money going to a non religious fund.

  • PegK

    Furthermore, they may not be using taxpayer dollars, but the inmates are helping to build the center. So, free manpower.

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