Faith Behind Bars: Encountering Immigrant Detention in Arizona

Team Members/Contributors

Leah Sarat Arizona State University Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Over the past few decades, the detention of immigrants in the United States has risen dramatically, due in part to the involvement of private, for-profit prison companies in matters of immigration enforcement. This reality imposes emotional, psychological, and spiritual burdens on those who come to the United States in pursuit of a better life. Detention also poses new challenges to members of North American faith communities as they seek to develop effective migrant and refugee ministries. The goal of this project is to explore the religious implications of growing immigrant detention in the United States—both for those within detention facility walls, and for those on the outside. Through an ethnographic study centered on the experience of Latino detainees in Arizona, I will explore the following questions: First, what are the material, emotional, and spiritual challenges that people in detention currently face? Second, how are detainees, chaplains, and faith volunteers responding to these challenges? Finally, what ethical considerations must people of faith take into account as they seek to become involved? My eventual goal is to produce a book that will spur reflection on the issue among academics and faith communities alike. By providing a rich and varied collection of voices, and by highlighting moments of encounter among individuals of diverse religious perspectives, I hope to encourage readers to reflect upon their own relationships to the men and women currently in detention in the United States, and to consider ways in which they might take action.