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Lunchtime Talk: God Behind Bars: The Rise of Faith-based prison ministries in the age of mass incarceration

March 27
12:10 pm

Monday, March 27, 2017
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street
Jerome Greene Hall – Room 646
12:10 pm

In prisons throughout the United States, punitive incarceration and religious revitalization are occurring simultaneously. Faith-based prison ministries operate under the logic that religious conversion and redemption will transform prisoners into new human beings. Cash-strapped and overcrowded state and federal prisons increasingly relying on ministries to provide educational and mental health services and to help maintain order. These religious organizations are overwhelmingly run by nondenominational Protestant Christians who see prisoners as captive audiences. How do people in prison practice religion in a space of coercion and discipline? What are the legal implications of the state’s promotion of Christianity over other religious traditions in some prisons? What role do faith-based groups play in the bipartisan movement for criminal justice reform, and how can faith-based ministries more effectively work on policies to end mass incarceration?

Tanya Erzen, Associate Professor, Religion and Gender Studies, University of Puget Sound and Executive Director of the Freedom Education Project, Puget Sound, joins us on Monday, March 27th for a lunchtime talk on these and other issues.

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project’s mission is to bring legal academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights conflict with or undermine other fundamental rights to equality and liberty. This lunchtime talk is part of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project’s series of lunchtime talks on Law, Rights and Religion.



March 27
12:10 pm


Columbia University