Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religious Studies

Reader 1

Nancy Neiman Auerbach

Reader 2

Erin Runions

Reader 3

Andrew Jacobs

Rights Information

© 2010 Eva DeLair


The history of the prison system in the US is inextricably linked to Christianity. Penitentiary shares its root word, penitence, with repentance. Quakers and Congregationalists started the very first prisons because they viewed the corporal punishment of that time to be cruel (Graber 20). Even today, prisons are required to hire chaplains to make sure incarcerated people have the freedom to practice religion inside of the prison. The largest volunteer group serving incarcerated people is Prison Fellowship, an arm of the Religious Right which began in the 1970s and is now the largest faith based group of its kind1 (Prison Fellowship “Benefits”). Under the umbrella of Prison Fellowship, a pre-release program called InnerChange Freedom Initiative was developed with the specific goal of transforming incarcerated men in order to lower recidivism rates. The Religious Right claims to have positive effects on incarcerated people beyond cultivating spirituality, such as better rehabilitation and lower recidivism. However, their claims have not withstood scientific scrutiny. This begs the question, what are the effects of the Religious Right’s programming inside of prisons? The US prison system, created with the intent of protecting society from criminals, was developed primarily by straight, white, Christian men who intended the system to be for men. Every aspect of a resident’s life is controlled by someone else;