On December 17, a letter was sent to President Donald Trump concerning the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill designed to reduce the risk of reoffending among the approximately 181,000 convicts incarcerated in the federal penitentiary system. The content of the letter, urging the President to "oppose Cotton-Kennedy's amendments to the First Step Act", was entirely normal. What has been a lot smug around Washington, however, is the inclusion of the Church of Scientology.

In addition to the Scientology logo, which is among the top 22 criminal justice reform organizations at the top of the missive, alongside well-known bipartite groups such as the US Justice Action Network and Americans for Prosperity, John Stanard, national director of crime prevention programs, is one of the world's leading thinkers. Social improvement of the Political Church, was among the signatories. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) emphasized the inclusion of the Church of Scientology.

The letter was written by Families Against Compulsory Minimum (FAMM), a nonprofit organization fighting the country's stringent mandatory sentencing laws. Kevin Ring, president of the FAMM, explained the presence of Scientology in the letter: "We contacted the members of the round table on justice through the list server. This is so we usually solicit people who wish to sign. Stanard is indeed a member of the Justice Roundtable. and Interfaith Coalition for Criminal Justice.) When asked why they would have an alleged abusive cult among its signatories, he added, "It's worth reconsidering our decision."

"Scientology loves interreligious efforts in general because they think it makes them look more like a" traditional religion "when they participate," says Tony Ortega of The Underground Bunker, the leading Scientology journalist. "And Scientology desperately needs to be seen as a mainstream."

In Lachlan Markay's Pay Dirt, it was later revealed that Greg Mitchell, a shady DC officer who had won millions of lobbying on behalf of the Church of Scientology since 2003, was pushing for more clients, including one of the other signatories of the letter, the Justice Action Network (JAN), which works closely with the FAMM. FAMM and JAN both claim that they did not know that Mitchell was also lobbying for Scientology on criminal justice reform – and when they discovered it, sources say it was fired.

"Mr. Mitchell has not informed the Justice Action Network leaders of his advocacy for the Church of Scientology," said a JAN spokesman at the Daily Beast. "He was hired to to provide political expertise on federal legislation on criminal justice reform and, after its adoption, Mr. Mitchell's consultation project with us was completed. "

For his part, Mitchell claims that he "did not work on this bill on behalf of the Church", that he "was working on international issues relating to the freedom of religion for the Church "and that he" had been working on the First Step Act for two years. "He also states that" the 3rd quarter of 2011 was the last time I did a job of Church-based Criminal Justice Reform, "in an official capacity – citing his revelations as evidence. The Church of Scientology echoed this, claiming that although he had" worked " with "faith-based coalitions" to enforce the First Step Act, Mitchell "did not work for the Church of Scientology or any entity related to this bill."

Mitchell, however, confessed to the Daily Beast that he had been working on Scientology's "Narconon and Criminon" programs, calling them successful rehabilitation programs in the context of lobbying for criminal justice reform. And this, say former Scientologists, is the real reason why the church has aligned itself with the causes of criminal justice reform in Washington, like First Step: convert criminals.

One of the key elements of the First Step Act, which President Trump promulgated on December 21, is the "earned time credit" – or that inmates can get early release by following rehabilitation programs via "Non-profit and other private organizations, including faith-based organizations". community, arts and community organizations that will offer paid or volunteer recidivism programs. "

According to Mike Rinder, a former senior executive of the Church of Scientology, the founder of religion, L. Ron Hubbard, said that "the criminal justice system is unfair, impractical and corrupt, and that justice will only be done if it is made in accordance with the law. Scientology System "Ethics and Justice", as set out in Hubbard's book, Introduction to the ethics of Scientology.

Scientology has helped to create a "social welfare group" called Criminon International. Led by Greg Capazorio, a Scientology Freedom Medalist, married to Cass Mapother, Criminon, Tom Cruise's sister, "a program that means" no crime "is a voluntary criminal rehabilitation program that uses technologies developed by L. Ron Hubbard. help the convicts recover their pride and self-esteem, "reads on the website of the Church of Scientology.

"Criminon is just another front group for Scientology. It's a game for Scientology that must get the government to pay for its Scientology technology with its Criminon program. "

– Leah Remini

The Criminon Rehabilitation Program is at the heart of The path of happiness, a booklet describing 21 precepts designed by Hubbard and supposed to improve life (for example, "Do not be foolhardy"). And the pamphlet was used as a recruiting tool by Scientology by prominent adherents of faith – for example. Tom Cruise, who distributed copies on the set of War of the Worlds, and his team of volunteer ministers, who regularly distribute them to survivors following disasters, such as the recent wildfires in California. In the past, Scientology has been criticized for falsely claiming that reputable organizations, such as the LAPD, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Mayor's Office of San Francisco, had endorsed The path of happiness, leading these groups to publicly disavow him, and they even tried to drag him into American schools.

Despite her obvious connection to Scientology and the church's public stance that she implements the "Hubbard Technologies," Criminon says it's about a lay organization. On its website, it contains the following warning: "Crimino is not allowed to use and does not use Mr. Hubbard's religious writings and technologies." Its secular goal is to eliminate the scourge of crime and often terrorize our societies. "

Leah Remini, the world's largest Scientology whistleblower, wants to stand out, displaying The path of happiness "Propaganda" aimed at attracting new converts to a religion whose membership has declined considerably in the last decade due to the scandal.

"L. Ron Hubbard has a very specific policy contained in his public relations doctrine which states in part that Scientologists must "align themselves with real churches and promote the public image that Scientology is the solution to the ills of the world." "Man," Remini told me.

"Criminon is just another front-line group for Scientology," she continues. "It's only a game for Scientology that has to get the government to pay for its Scientology technology with its Criminon program."

Criminon International has not responded to requests for comments for this story; The Church of Scientology said through a spokesperson: "The Church has been supporting Criminon for more than three decades," but declined to answer specific questions about links between Scientology and Criminon.

Meanwhile, Criminon is currently available in several prisons around the world, including Florida, Washington and California. A press release published by Criminon on December 13th said that 24 inmates had recently received a certificate stating that they had taken "the first of the Criminon course series". The path of happiness.

"The graduation ceremony was the seventh graduation ceremony this year and has brought together 1,445 inmates in 120 Florida jails where the program is delivered through correspondence and on-site courses," the press release said.

Although Criminon's website boldly states that it is known to have "reduced the rate of reoffending to 80% from zero and completely eradicates violence in cells," these numbers have not been verified because the organization has not been subjected to any independent study. .

A 2005 Los Angeles Times A presentation examining Criminon in LA jails revealed that, like Scientology, Criminon possesses controversial conceptions in mental health, namely that modern psychiatry and the use of psychiatric drugs are universally harmful.

"Yes [inmates] psychiatric drugs, encourage them to get out ", a Criminon booklet obtained by the Time declared. "Psychiatrists are heavily involved in the penitentiary system. Most prisons and prisons have a professional psychiatrist who goes out on a daily basis and gives inmates various and varied doses of drugs. Most of the time, it is a ploy to keep detainees sedated so that they do not cause any problems. A 2011 promotional video for Criminon also claimed that the detainees were "drugged by force to keep them under control."

Professor Stephen Kent, a sociologist from the University of Alberta who studies the group, told the Time that the goal of Scientology "is to destroy psychiatry and replace it with its own treatments.Criminon is simply one of the many Scientology organizations that hope to see this goal achieved."

Or as Remini puts it: "Any organization that aligns with a for-profit criminal organization, such as Scientology, must be wary."