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Prison Religion: Faith-Based Reform and the Constitution Hardcover – Mar 9 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 9 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069113359X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691133591
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,536,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"An ambitious and successfully argued book . . . satisfying demands of empirical rigor while respecting the need to explore larger theoretical questions about the nature of society and religion."--Mark Lewis Taylor, Religious Studies Review

"Considering faith-based rehabilitation programs? I recommend that administrators and program providers first read this book. Those already engaged with a faith-based program will benefit from studying Winnifred Fallers Sullivan's description and analysis. She describes an Iowa Department of Corrections' program in enough detail that readers get a real sense of not only the program, but the facility, the staff and the participants. She also provides vivid details about how the program was conceived, how it operated and how it was killed by a lawsuit. . . . Timely and thorough."--Stephen Pontesso, Corrections Today

"Prison Religion provides a dynamic interdisciplinary analysis of a recent trial challenging the constitutionality of a faith-based residential rehabilitation program in an Iowa state prison. . . . Sullivan's scholarly integration of law, religion, history, and penology achieves what most works on faith-based social service programs fail to accomplish and that is to answer the question, 'What is the FAITH in faith-based."--Faith Lutze, Law and Politics Book Review blog

"Sullivan has written an intriguing book that raises the constitutional 'separation of church and state' issue through an enlightened analysis of a challenge to a faith-based program at a correctional facility in Iowa."--M.A. Foley, Choice

"I would highly recommend this work to those who seek to understand the thorny intersection of religion, public life, and the law. It would make a fine case study for courses in criminology, law, and religious studies, though I would suggest it be used for post undergraduate audiences due to its complex writing style."--Todd L. Matthews, Sociology of Religion

From the Back Cover

"Prison Religion is a remarkable and illuminating book. In narrating a court case over an Iowa 'faith-based' prison program, Sullivan manages to combine a balanced account of the trial and its background--informative, fair, and detailed--with wide-ranging reflections on the problems of religion, secularism, and the law. Interdisciplinary in the best way, this book will be provocative and useful for lawyers, historians, and anyone interested in the complicated entanglement that binds evangelicalism and disestablishment in mutually assured misrecognition."--Michael Warner, Yale University

"Winnifred Fallers Sullivan is one of the foremost interpreters of religion in American law, and in Prison Religion she invites us to consider how legal structures affect understandings of religious culture. This is the most provocative book on American evangelicalism that I have read in a very long time. It is also hard to imagine reading this book and not being challenged or changed by its portrait of the prison system."--Courtney Bender, Columbia University

"In this wide-ranging and frequently brilliant book, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan mines her experience as an expert witness in the extraordinary case of the 'God Pod,' a section of an Iowa state prison administered by a faith-based organization that equated crime with sin."--Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania Law School

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9df920b4) out of 5 stars 0 reviews
HASH(0x9cad5930) out of 5 stars This book is a good read, but the material is pretty dense March 13 2016
By Craig Lashley - Published on
Format: Paperback
Prison Religion: Faith Based Reform and the Constitution by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan is an analysis of a 2005 court case in Des Moines, Iowa involving the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI). The book looks at the challenges of the separation of church and state, and faith-based programs inside government funded social services. The lawsuit was brought against IFI by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). The book opens by briefly explaining the arguments of religious freedoms and the First Amendment. Sullivan provides definitions of IFI from prisoners that participated in the program, graduated, withdrew, or were dismissed. Next, he helps define what it means to be evangelical and how the IFI argues that their program is not evangelical specific and it can be embraced by anyone regardless of religious preference.

An interesting parts of this book, for me, is that each inmate had to sign a Statement of Faith. If a person of a non-Christian faith is to participate in this program they are forced to agree to a faith that they may not have any intention converting to, but are only doing because they know they will receive special privileges. Sullivan provides testimony from people that are Jewish, Muslim, and Mormon saying that they felt discriminated against or pressured to take on a new set of beliefs. This book is a good read, but the material is pretty dense. I had a hard time understanding the argument of the First Amendment. I believe faith-based programs can be beneficial, but I also believe they exclude people. Several years ago I went through a faith-based program for homeless people. Once I was in the program I constantly felt pressures to speak in tongues and convert to the churches set of beliefs. I was raised and baptized in a Methodist church. However, the church that was organizing the program believed in full submersion, therefore, in their eyes I was a non-believer unless I were to be re-baptized in their church. It seemed like the main goal of overcoming homelessness was somehow lost. I like how the book shares accounts of people that felt like outsiders within the program because of experiences like my own.