Conviction behind Bars: Religion in a Twenty-First-Century American Women’s Prison


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Today, over 1.2 million women in the United States are under the supervision of the adult correctional system. Yet, despite the historical relationship between contemporary punishment and religious rehabilitation, there has been little attention to the impact of religion on the lives of incarcerated women. This project draws upon 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork inside a state women’s prison. It demonstrates how religion, central to many inmates’ daily activities, impacts their freedoms and privileges behind prison walls by providing material benefits, social outcomes of support and status, and an alternative framework for interpreting incarceration. This project will not only illuminate the role of religion in these women’s lives, but will also more broadly examine how some of the most disadvantaged Americans engage with religion to cope with the hardships they face in everyday life.