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Rehabilitation through Spirituality and Faith: Why isn’t the Prison and Reentry Reform Movement Focu

January 16, 2019, Caterina Roman and John Roman - Berkeley Center

Since the origins of penitentiaries in Europe and America in the 1700s, individuals affiliated with religious institutions have been providing care and support for incarcerated and released prisoners. Fortunately, we have moved past the thinking of the original Quaker penal regimes which held that solitude and silence could bring about spiritual conversion such that dishonest men and women would become virtuous (e.g., rehabilitated). Unfortunately, policymakers and criminal justice stakeholders have not taken advantage of the broader and more nuanced role that faith and spirituality can play for many in offender rehabilitation.

The momentum of mass incarceration has slowed, but the pervasive collateral consequences of incarceration remain unabated—the human toll withstood by those incarcerated and their families, the damage to already marginalized communities, and the skyrocketing public costs of incapacitation. We suggest that policymakers and stakeholders forge creative partnerships to leverage the extraordinary human capital available through faith-based organizations and spirituality-based programming. We propose this not on a foundation of faith, but rather as a reflection on rigorous, transparent, and objective science.

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