Christianity and Prison Abolition


The group aims to create a space for discussion of Christian-ethical approaches to incarceration broadly, and prison abolition in particular. No commitment to prison abolition is assumed.


The public scholarship of Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, and others has sparked a much-needed discussion of mass incarceration. Where once prisons seemed like a necessary part of life in the US, today they are viewed as a moral problem, even a moral abomination. Today, challenging the prison-industrial complex is broadly recognized as an imperative. However, the current popular discourse on “criminal justice reform” is too often framed as a pragmatic, policy issue rather than as a moral and, potentially, theological question. We aim to encourage a variety of critical approaches to incarceration that draw on traditions of Christian ethical reflection, including Black and womanist theology, Catholic social thought, social gospel, Latinx theology, and analytic approaches. We aim to create a space for discussing the implications of challenging incarceration at its roots, as those roots are entangled with race, class, gender, disability, and other issues. What would it look like to imagine, collectively, a world without prisons? With many Christian communities engaging with incarceration as a social justice issue, and with some Christian organizers (including those formerly incarcerated) promoting prison abolition, how can academic Christian ethicists learn from the communities most affected by incarceration – perhaps inviting us to think about the project of Christian ethics, as a whole, in new ways?