“… these questions, we intend to equip pastors and leaders in religious education with resources to develop and expand prison education programs. ”
In recent years, national attention has focused on the enormous U.S. prison population and the ever larger number of Americans with incarcerated or formerly incarcerated loved ones. Christians want to help, and prison education has been shown to successfully reduce recidivism rates. Seminaries and divinity schools have long been involved in prison education, and prison ministries outside of a higher education context have also offered prison education programs. Such programs are transformative not only to incarcerated individuals but also in the spiritual formation of pastors. However, research on prison education has focused almost exclusively on secular programs. We propose to produce the first scholarly examination of the landscape of religious education in prisons in the era of mass incarceration, offering models for seminaries, divinity schools, and ministries that want to start prison education programs. Building on a network of prison educators, chaplains, and program administrators that we have already brought together, we intend to produce an academic journal article and an open-access blog sharing best practices of religiously-based prison education programs. We hypothesize that such programs offer a holistic approach to prison pedagogy, an approach quite different from the dominant secular models of prison education.