Spiritual Entrepreneurs: Florida’s Faith-based Prisons and the American Carceral State

Brad Stoddard. Univ. of North Carolina, $24.95 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-46966-308-1
In this vibrant study, Stoddard (Stereotyping Religion) unpacks the complex inner workings of Florida’s faith- and character-based correctional institutions, or FCBIs, facilities administered and funded by religious volunteers for approved prisoners. Stoddard argues that Christian programming “premised on neoliberal capitalism” predominates in FCBIs, and his attentive analysis also reveals unveils “multiple subcultures” in the institutions: there are evangelical chaplains swamped with paperwork, a Wiccan group of inmates that summons the demon Astaroth to protect them from Christian correctional officers, and “inmate facilitator” Ibraheem, who provides accountability to fellow Muslims: “You don’t see Allah... but you do see me, and I’m watching you as well.” One memorable profile is of volunteer Bob Rumbley, who once opposed the building of a prison in his neighborhood, but now teaches classes at an FCBI and runs “a Christian reentry home for formerly incarcerated men.” While Stoddard is highly critical of the ways in which the Christian right and policies of discipline and punishment dominate FCBIs, stories like that of Rumbley’s change of heart from a “tough-on-crime Christian” to volunteer advocating for prison reform brings a human touch to the proceedings. It’s an intelligent take on an under-the-radar niche in the American prison system, and one that will raise eyebrows with readers interested in the intersection of faith and justice. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 12/18/2020
Release date: 04/01/2021
Genre: Religion
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-1-4696-6307-4
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