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Media Articles - 2000s

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3 December 2002
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Tom Cruise Sect Preys On Drugs Prisoners;
Warning As Cult Targets British Jails

By James Hardy, Political Editor

The Mirror
June 14, 2001

A SECT whose members include Tom Cruise and John Travolta is infiltrating British prisons.

Scientologists claim to be in touch with 200 prisoners a week offering help with drug problems.

The drugs charity Criminon UK, run by the Church of Scientology, boasts in a new newsletter that it wants to expand into full-blown treatment programmes.

Prison groups and anti-cult campaigners last night demanded an urgent inquiry into the group's work.

Criminon is part of a larger drugs project known as Narconon which has been criticised for more than two decades.

Ian Howarth, founder of the Cult Information Centre, said: "The Prison Service should be extremely concerned about the activities of Narconon in the prison system.

"In my experience over 22 years there are two common denominators with Scientology - one is to recruit people and the other is to elicit money from those people. Outside, where you find someone is getting involved with a group like the Scientologists family or friends can step in.

"Prisoners are not just vulnerable people, they have nobody to blow the whistle for them." Criminon preaches the doctrine of sci-fi writer L Ron Hubbard, who set up the Church of Scientology in America in 1954. It now claims eight million members worldwide and 15,000 in Britain.

Film star John Travolta is a member and its teachings about the upbringing of children are said to be a key factor in the divorce of Tom Cruise and his Catholic wife Nicole Kidman. The newsletter is delivered in a large number of British prisons every week.

Harry Fletcher, of the probation union NAPO, said drugs work should be carried out only by recognised organisations. "All groups which target vulnerable inmates must be stopped," he said.

The Scientologists were denied charitable status by the Charity Commissioners in 1999, effectively meaning they could not claim to be a religion.

A Prison Service spokesman said last night: "These are correspondence programmes. If prisoners want to subscribe they can do so as individuals, but they are not part of the Prison Service's recognised rehabilitation programme."