1st Edition

The Restorative Prison Essays on Inmate Peer Ministry and Prosocial Corrections

    154 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    154 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Drawing on work from inside some of America’s largest and toughest prisons, this book documents an alternative model of "restorative corrections" utilizing the lived experience of successful inmates, fast disrupting traditional models of correctional programming. While research documents a strong desire among those serving time in prison to redeem themselves, inmates often confront a profound lack of opportunity for achieving redemption. In a system that has become obsessively and dysfunctionally punitive, often fewer than 10% of prisoners receive any programming. Incarcerated citizens emerge from prisons in the United States to reoffend at profoundly high rates, with the majority of released prisoners ending up back in prison within five years. In this book, the authors describe a transformative agenda for incentivizing and rewarding good behavior inside prisons, rapidly proving to be a disruptive alternative to mainstream corrections and offering hope for a positive future.

    The authors’ expertise on the impact of faith-based programs on recidivism reduction and prisoner reentry allows them to delve into the principles behind inmate-led religious services and other prosocial programs—to show how those incarcerated may come to consider their existence as meaningful despite their criminal past and current incarceration. Religious practice is shown to facilitate the kind of transformational "identity work" that leads to desistance that involves a change in worldview and self-concept, and which may lead a prisoner to see and interpret reality in a fundamentally different way. With participation in religion protected by the U.S. Constitution, these model programs are helping prison administrators weather financial challenges while also helping make prisons less punitive, more transparent, and emotionally restorative. 

    This book is essential reading for scholars of corrections, offender reentry, community corrections, and religion and crime, as well as professionals and volunteers involved in correctional counseling and prison ministry. 

    1. The Consequences of Failing Prisons
    2. Can Prisons Model Virtuous Behavior?
    3. How Religion Contributes to Volunteerism, Prosocial Behavior, and Positive Criminology
    4. The Disruptive Potential of Offender-led Programs: "Lived Experience" and Inmate Ministry
    5. Offender-Led Religious Movements and Rethinking Incarceration
    6. Wounded Healers in "Failed State" Prisons: A Case Study of Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman
    7. Lessons We Can Learn from Prisoners
    8. Toward Restorative Corrections: A Movement Well Underway
    9. Epilogue


    Byron Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University.

    Michael Hallett is a Professor in the Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of North Florida.

    Sung Joon Jang is Research Professor of Criminology at Baylor University.

    ‘In The Restorative Prison, Byron Johnson, Michael Hallett, and Sung Joon Jang show how entrepreneurial, transformative ideas can help to solve one of the most complex problems facing American society today. Masterfully blending behavioral science research and an expert’s knowledge of the criminal justice system, this book delivers both solutions and inspiration.’

    Arthur C. Brooks, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, and New York Times bestselling author

    ‘Religion has been entwined with the prison since the birth of the penitentiary two centuries ago, but in this urgent and insurgent new book, Johnson and colleagues argue that faith may now be our only hope for escaping the unholy mess that mass incarceration has become for families and communities in the United States. Although the work is based on sophisticated research, the promised salvation is not to be found in the form of criminological expertise but rather from the lived experience of ‘wounded healers’ – those who have suffered the darkness but found the light. We can only pray they are right.’

    Shadd Maruna, Professor, Queen’s University Belfast

    ‘Under what conditions can religious volunteers be a source of prison reform? What do hope and restoration look like, in a failing, oversized and inhumane prison system? The religious life of prisons is, increasingly, ‘where the action is’. This passionately written and meticulously researched book promotes a positive vision of religiosity, meaning, connectedness and well-being, showing how such practices can, or should, be made possible even in the darkest places.’

    Alison Liebling, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Cambridge, UK

    ‘It is now common to find regular requiems for the role of religion in American life. In the midst of this growing din about the decline of religion as an active social agent in the life of Americans, Byron Johnson, Sung Joon Jang, and Michael Hallett present a compelling argument for the robust role of religion in creating prisons that help restore people to a positive, prosocial life trajectory, even, in the most extreme example, for inmates who will never leave prison. Because many of the early concepts of correctional rehabilitation are rooted in Christianity,it might be easy to dismiss this book as reactionary tome, written to harken back to the good old days. However, while the authors acknowledge the comingled history of religion and rehabilitation, the authors make a new argument, based on insights about the process of desistance for individuals involved in crime. Modern criminologists now agree that that true desistance for people involved in crime involves the personal choice to adopt, and live, a new, prosocial identity. The authors astutely point out that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is involved in the same basic enterprise for everyone, not just prisoners. There is no need to reinvent the wheel – in many cases, religious programs in the prison are in the right place at the right time for the new effort to create prisons that restore rather than destroy life. As a result, this book is a must read for all people interested in the growing push for prison reform, even for those who have no particular interest in religion.’

    Shawn D. Bushway, Senior Policy Research, Behavioral and Policy Sciences Department, RAND Corporation

    ‘The Restorative Prison does an excellent job of highlighting the positive impact of faith-based programming within correctional walls. The perspectives shared by the authors offer a fresh way to think about the effectiveness of rehabilitative programs and the purpose of our prisons.’

    Bryan Collier, Executive Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice