Sunday, June 08, 2008

District Court Refuses To Dissolve Injunction In InnerChange Case

Last year in a widely publicized decision the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a government funded, faith-based inmate rehabilitation program operated in an Iowa prison by InnerChange violates the Establishment Clause. (See prior posting.) Since the Iowa Department of Corrections has now terminated its contract with InnerChange, the program has ceased operation in Iowa, and InnerChange has paid back to the state all funds that the court had ordered it to return, in April the defendants in the case asked the federal district court to dissolve the injunction that had been issued.

In Americans United for Separation of Church & State v. Prison Fellowship Ministries, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44291 (SD IA, May 19, 2008), an Iowa federal district court refused to do so at this time, but said it is wiling to reconsider dissolving the injunction in 18 months. In denying the current motion, the court said:
[T]he injunction does not result in the Court "micro-managing the Iowa prison system," nor does it fail to "'take into account the interests of state and local authorities in managing their own affairs, consistent with the Constitution.'" ... Indeed, were the State to contract with InnerChange for services unsupported in any way by government funds, such contract would not violate the existing injunction and would not necessitate Court intervention or review.

... Defendants have not satisfied their burden to show that the cessation of the InnerChange program or the repayment of funds has made compliance with the injunction more onerous, unworkable, or detrimental to the public interest, such that the injunction should be dissolved.