Ala. governor says churches, not state, must rehab prisoners

By Stan Diel
Religion News Service

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Gov. Bob Riley on Tuesday (May 20) asked Alabama churches to shoulder the burden of caring for newly released inmates, saying the state lacks the flexibility and funds to help them successfully re-enter society.

Leaders from churches and charitable groups were asked to provide a wide range of services to former inmates, including employment assistance, housing, clothing, health care and cash.

Riley said the state's churches can rise to the challenge just as they do in response to natural disasters such as hurricanes.

"If we can motivate the faith-based community in the state the way we do during an emergency, then we can make a difference," Riley said to a group of about 500 people, mostly religious leaders.

Bill Johnson, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, said the state releases 11,000 inmates a year and isn't capable of providing the services necessary to help them readjust. Even if the state had the funds, such programs aren't popular with taxpayers, he said.