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Table Talk: "Religion Behind Bars: Transformation, Rehabilitation, and Criminal Justice Reform" with Dr. Byron Johnson
Time & Location
About The Event
What does it mean to "reform" the the prisoner? What effects does this endeavor have on our culture? Join us for an enlightening dinner and conversation with Dr. Byron Johnson (Criminology and Sociology, Baylor) to unpack this issue. Please RSVP soon, as seating is limited to 20 persons!
Prisons are known for many things but far less understood is the fact that correctional facilities tend to be intensely religious places. To date, research on religion within prisons has focused largely on faith-based programs administered by faith-motivated volunteers and generally confirms that these programs can increase prosocial behavior inside of prison and even reduce recidivism following release from prison. However, very little is known about what happens when inmates form and lead their own religious groups, interpret theology from inside of prison and practice their faith communally inside the cellblocks.
A new line of research suggests religious groups indigenous to the cellblocks -- what I am calling Offender-Led Religious Movements – may have the capacity to provide participants a strong identity, an alternative moral framework and a set of embodied practices that emphasize virtue and character development. Though nearly invisible to scholars and co-religionists outside of prisons, this innovative approach to rehabilitation and reform holds significant potential to transform the character of not only individual prisoners, but particular cellblocks or housing units, and possibly entire correctional facilities.
Byron Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. He is the founding director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) as well as director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior, and previously directed research centers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a leading authority on the scientific study of religion, the efficacy of faith-based organizations, and criminal justice. Recent publications have examined the impact of faith-based programs on recidivism reduction and prisoner reentry. Professor Johnson recently completed a series of studies for the Department of Justice on the role of religion in prosocial youth behavior and has served as a member of the Coordinating Council for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (Presidential Appointment). He is currently working on a longitudinal study of court-referred adolescents and 12-Step recovery (www.helpingotherslivesober.org). He has been project director/PI on many grants from private foundations as well as federal agencies including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, U. S. Institute of Peace, Department of Labor, and the National Institutes of Health. His newest books are The Angola Prison Seminary: Effects of Faith-Based Ministry on Identity Transformation, Desistance, and Rehabilitation (Routledge, 2016) and The Quest for Purpose: The Collegiate Search for a Meaningful Life (SUNY Press, 2017). Johnson was the 2013 Lone Star Big Brother of the year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas.