Steve Scanner

Spiritual Arrest; Hallowed Bondage

We’ll bomb the Police State
Assassinate the Magistrate
We'll go to every town
And burn them fuckin' prisons down
'Burn Them Prisons' - LEFTOVER CRACK

It may be ‘cool’ to share this idealistic Punk Rock perspective with Stza and the LOC guys, but let’s face it, what it is is little more than an Anarcho Utopia. If such a society did exist, those singing and supporting these and similar proclamations would be among the first bemoaning such conflict also.

A society that would allow the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, Myra Hindley, Ed Gein, Ken Erskine or Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe to roam free fails, in my eyes at least, to hold a single Utopian quality. If we did all co-exist within a lawless, prison-free community, I assume that would allow the likes of Augusto Pinochet and Slobodan Milosevic to persist with their genocidal tactics with complete impunity. And of course, we wouldn’t have had the pleasure of seeing Geoffrey Archer imprisoned for a few years!

How many liberators
Really want to be dictators?
'Where Do You Draw The Line' - DEAD KENNEDYS

These murderers, rapists and miscreants have to be accountable for their own heinous misdemeanours. Unless you prescribe to the notion of a vigilante-endorsed mandate (which would only lead to a situation where despotic tyrants would wield unflinching and unjust retribution), being incarcerated remains the best way to alienate such human bacteria from an otherwise concordant society.

Sure, the prison system has its faults and requires some kind of reform. A greater emphasis could be placed on community work for minor crimes; I favour more laborious confinement, devoid of creature comforts, for those convicted of serious crimes; more research into the cause of crime and its prevention is of more benefit long-term than simple punishment of individuals short-term.

Whatever the paths for progression, I’m positive that a religion-dominated correctional institution is not the way to enhance a penal system that already offers regular visits of clergy from all denominations as well as provided prayer/worship space. Yet a penitentiary in Lawtey, south of Jacksonville, Florida, views religious piety and spiritual sermonising as the way forward.

Mixing rehab with religion, administering proselytism as punishment and trading the chain gang for choir practice, the Lawtey Correctional Institution is the first faith-based prison. Evidence suggests that this form of attempted behavioural rectification is beneficial. The repeat-offender rate in the U.S. is more than 50%, but those involved in some form of religious programme while incarcerated are, seemingly, less likely to return to prison on release.

That, of course, is a voluntary and extra-curricular activity in the standard prison system. What Lawtey promotes is a ‘Godly Regime’ where readings of the Bible, the Koran and/or the Torah are taught alongside the more recognised rehab readings of anger management and job training. On the surface, little is wrong with that - social and spiritual reparation in one.

Given closer analysis, cracks in this simplistic and wholesome ethic are abundant, most obviously the violation of Church-State separation. The very nature of a prison sentence is a matter of the State - not that of a pastor. Lawtey’s evident coalition of spiritual preference and governmental decree is argued by the fact that the prison employs only private funding and offers equal access to 31 different faiths.

In the name of God they left you to die
Religious wars there's no reason why
They left you to die
'Religious Wars' - SUBHUMANS

Access to 31 disparate faiths could lead to a ‘my-religion-is-better-than-your-religion’ scenario. Every religion in the world has a plethora of ecclesiastical obstacles, with factions breaking away from one denomination to form another while worshipping the same God but with superficially divergent parameters. Condense this intolerance into the pressure cooker situation of prison confinement and a 31-way, inter-cell jihad is not inconceivable. Religious wars are happening in the world now and as history proves - be it in Ireland or Israel - war and unrest has a firm footing in the doctrines evangelised by the Righteous.

I’ll admit, the desire of Florida’s Governor to improve the condition of the State’s prisons - which the introduction of Lawtey is said to herald - is a noble move. Yet doing so under the condition that religious indoctrination HAS to be involved makes the act appear peremptory, sanctimonious and autocratic. What has occurred in Lawtey is that faith - and the act of preaching it - has become the core correction criterion instead of having a chaplain available to inmates as required.

President and Pope
Your pride and hope
Be a man
Protect your land
'Church And State' - M D C

In a country where religious fervour can allow a President to consider constructing a new Amendment to outlaw same-sex relationships and which sees the same incumbent litter a re-election campaign with comparative religious double-speak, this really should come as no surprise. Given the State, even less so.

Florida - the State where the last election was won and whose Governor is, coincidentally, the brother of George W. Jeb is another Bush who has made faith-based initiatives a staple in his conservative social policy and has already duplicated Lawtey with a women’s facility in Tampa.

Also, as expected, where there is a Bush, there are some financial issues of less than reverential duplicity.

It seems Lawtey may have received funding - direct or indirect - from brother George and his government. Now you can see why Jeb was so keen to stress the prison has private funding. The real point of contention though is just WHY Lawtey needed funding at all, because when the faith-based-prison concept was unveiled, the State was slashing more than $20 million from its other secular prison-rehab programmes.

You don’t need to be a Professor of Mathematics to deduce the accumulated bounty that someone in the Bush household may have pocketed. ''I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus than here at Lawtey Correctional,'' Jeb is quoted as saying. I bet his bank manager says something very similar.

Joe Strummer must be turning in his grave at the concept of some faceless, failed, parasitic muso taking the languid, submissive option of, not just plagiarism, but banal imitation as opposed to any form of inspiration. Especially when said copyist falters on lyrics readily available and known to every sincere fan.

S.W.A.T. Police in riot gear are bombin' us tonight
And all our civil liberties'll die by morning light
While crooked politicians lie and rig the ballot vote
We whitewash democracy and paint another coat
'Burn Them Prisons' - LEFTOVER CRACK