Prison and Carceral Studies

This concentration provides VDS students with the opportunity to take up the issue of incarceration from a theological perspective. Students will explore biblical, theological and historical documents as well as sociological data to deepen understanding of the current reality of punishment in the United States. We will explore what religious traditions have to contribute to critiquing the injustice of our justice system. Students will engage prisoners and formerly incarcerated citizens through our Riverbend Program as well as appropriate field education opportunities. We will pay particular attention to issues of race, class, gender and sexuality in the application of punishment in the United States and beyond, taking up the relationship of discipline and punishment in society. And we will develop theological and ethical reflection in relationship to these issues. What, for example, is the role of punishment and mercy? How is reconciliation and justice possible? The concentration draws on a broad range of disciplines and combines learning from those whose lives have been most affected by incarceration - the incarcerated and their communities - as well as scholars whose research and teaching focus on the development and analysis of the prison industrial complex. 

  • Learning Goals
    • To develop an understanding of the realities of mass incarceration in the United States.
    • To explore the causes and consequences of prison, paying particular attention to issues of race, class, gender and sexuality.
    • To mine religious/theological traditions for resources for disrupting the prison industrial complex, and the cradle to prison pipeline.
  • Required Courses


  • Praxis Options

    OR in consultation with Field Education faculty, a related placement and completion of a course in Supervised Ministry and/or Field Education.

  • Sample Courses