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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Erzen and Vaught Books Expose New Trends in American Prison System

VaughtTwo scholars with connections to the Simpson Center have new books about overlooked trends within the contemporary American prison system.

Sabina Vaught’s Compulsory: Education and the Dispossession of Youth in a Juvenile Prison School(University of Minnesota Press, 2017) presents an institutional ethnography of race and gender power at play in a juvenile prison and its education system. Vaught, Associate Professor and Chair of Education at Tufts University, gave a November 2016 talk at the Simpson Center under the title “Unsurveilled and Unrecorded in a Juvenile Detention Basement,” discussing the prison system’s “hetero-patriarchal disciplinary relationship to young women who defy its raced and gendered narratives.”

ErzenTanya Erzen’s God in Captivity: The Rise of Faith-Based Ministries in an Age of Mass Incarceration (Beacon Press, 2017) charts the rise of religious ministries in American prisons, which include more than 20,000 Evangelical Christian volunteers. From the publisher:

It is by now well known that the United States’ incarceration rate is the highest in the world. What is not broadly understood is how cash-strapped and overcrowded state and federal prisons are increasingly relying on religious organizations to provide educational and mental health services and to help maintain order. And these religious organizations are overwhelmingly run by nondenominational Protestant Christians who see prisoners as captive audiences.

Erzen was a visiting scholar-in-residence at the Simpson Center in 2011-2012, when she was a faculty member at The Ohio State University. She is now Associate Research Professor in Religion and Gender & Queer Studies at the University of Puget Sound. Her recent interview with KUOW about the book is available online.

Congratulations, Tanya and Sabina!