Scientologists hunt for recruits inside prison
The Scientologists are persuading prisoners to take courses in the teachings of their late guru L Ron Hubbard. The inmates complete question papers in their cells and send them to the Church of Scientology for marking.
Probation officers and prison reform groups are alarmed at the development, which comes at a time when prison rehabilitation programmes are being cut back.
Stephen Shaw, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Prisoners are often vulnerable to the promises of cult religions. Everyone has a right to practise their beliefs but the Home Office must make sure that Scientologists are not using prisons as a recruiting ground."
Nico van den Berg, a Dutch lawyer who has set up the Scientologists' Criminon UK project said that 16 prisoners, in five jails, were undergoing the programme.
He said that it was intended to expand the scheme next year with Criminon volunteers going into prisons to take rehabilitation classes.
Mr Van den Berg added: "Once we become bigger we can actually go into prisons which might adopt the course as an official programme which all prisoners go through."
He said that Criminon was not seeking to recruit the inmates to Scientology but merely trying to turn them away from criminality by introducing them to The Way to Happiness, Hubbard's secular teachings on clean living.
The suggestion was greeted with suspicion by rehabilitation professionals. Harry Fletcher, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: "There are now 57,000 people in prison, many of whom are desperate to change their lives. You can see why the Scientologists would see this as a fertile recruiting ground. This is one service we could do without."
Other critics have been more damning, suggesting that Scientology is a dangerous cult which uses brain-washing techniques on its followers.
In a 1984 High Court judgment, Mr Justice Latey, described Scientology as "corrupt, sinister and dangerous" and "grimly reminiscent of the ranting and bullying of Hitler and his henchmen".
The cult is now developing a different public image thanks partly to the way it has been embraced in Hollywood. Travolta's last film, Phenomenon, has been described by some critics as a thinly disguised piece of propaganda for Scientology, which claims to have 8 million members worldwide.
Meanwhile, senior prison service sources said that Lord McNair, the Liberal peer, was lobbying Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, to allow Scientology services in jail.
South Korea ferry: Sewol captain says he is 'sorry to the people of South Korea' and that he delayed evacuating ship in case passengers 'drifted away'
Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
Royal Tour 2014: Is the Duchess of Cambridge the only person ever to climb into a fighter jet wearing a dress and high heels?
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 'Natural' energy drink banned for containing erectile dysfunction drug
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Kingdom Tower: Construction of 1km high new world’s tallest building to begin next week in Saudi Arabia
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...