The Center for Church and Prison is a resource and research center. It studies the intersections between religion, penal policies, penal systems, and imprisonment from a national and international perspective. Central to our goal is the focus on research, resource, and solution development regarding various aspects of the prison culture, penal policies and prison management. It explores the influences of poverty, religion, race, social consciousness on crime, punishment, imprisonment and penal policies especially in the United States and the United Kingdom toward penal reform and individual/community rehabilitation. The Center for Church and Prison, Inc. sees the focus on sentencing/prison reform, education, rehabilitation, and economic mobility as integral to penal reform. This concept is reflected in our four-prong initiatives.
Research: Resource and solution development towards best practices in penal reform through ethnographic studies in prison research, comparative criminal justice, prison chaplaincy and the intersections between religion and law.
Educational campaigns: Public forums, research presentations, conferences and training toward solution development and prison reform.
Advocacy: Advancing the need for reform in penal policies, prison management and imprisonment in light of their collateral impacts on individuals and affected communities.
Direct intervention: Providing services toward adequate reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals. We work with religious and non-religious individuals and organizations to further the goals of criminal justice and penal reform.
The Center for Church and Prison’s goal is strategic solution development and intervention in the high rate of incarceration and recidivism in the United States and the United Kingdom’s prison systems embodied in what we refer to as the four “Rs”:
RESPECT: for human dignity in the criminal justice system.
REFORM: In the sentencing laws and sentencing process toward prison reform, reduction in mass incarceration and reduction in the high rates of recidivism.
REHABILITATION: Emphasis on preventive programs development and treatment: education and skills development for employment possibilities; In-prison emphasis on job readiness programs for adequate reintegration and economic mobility formerly incarcerated individuals.
RESTORATION: Emphasis on strategic post-Prison initiatives for formerly incarcerated individuals with a focus on emotional wellness, family relationship, and community reintegration. This goal is pursued in collaboration with faith-based and non-faith based organizations.
The Center for Church and Prison, Inc. was founded in 2009 in response to the high rates of incarceration in the US penal system and their collateral consequences for individuals and communities of socially and economically marginalized communities. To further our goals, in 2011, The Center for Church and Prison, Inc. hosted its first job and resource fair under the title: Making Money Beyond CORI (Criminal Record Offender Information) for formerly incarcerated individuals. The fair brought together 750 “Returning Citizens” looking for employment in pursuit of economic mobility. Subsequent job fairs for Returning Citizens have been conducted since then.
In 2012, we hosted our first conference: 2012 Strategic National Conference on Mass Incarceration and Reentry. Keynote speaker was Michelle Alexander, author of the book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. It was held at Boston University from October 18-20 with other great speakers from across the country. Our second conference: 2013 Strategic National Conference on Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs was held from October 3-5 at Boston University School of Law. Speakers include Activists and Comedian: Dick Gregory, Dr. Boyce Watkins of Your Black World, Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, JD. of: The Drug Policy Alliance, Mr. Neil Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Drug Prohibition, Dr. Stephanie Bush-Baskette: author-Misguided Justice: The War on Drugs and Incarceration of Black Women, and Dr. Erika Kates: Wellesley Centers for Women. The keynote speaker was Douglas Blackmon: Author-Slavery By Another Name: The Reenslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.
In 2014, we hosted two strategic conferences to target specific individuals and groups in the struggle against mass incarceration: 2014 Clergy and Religious Leaders’ Conference on Mass Incarceration under the theme: Proactive Engagement and Criminal Justice Reform-The Voice of Religion. May 1st to May 3rd in Boston. Keynote speakers included: The Honorable Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake of Greater Allan AME Cathedral of New York, the Rev. Dr. Harold Trulear of Howard University, and the Rev. Dr. Virgil Wood.: 2014 Conference on Holistic Approach to Wellness for Returning Citizens and Community Revitalization under the theme: Information, Inspiration, and Resource Availability: Forward Ever, Backward Never]
Measurable outcomes from these gatherings are reflected in the increased awareness about mass incarceration and its implications on families, community security, emotional wellness, and economic mobility. In addition, there has been an increase in solution development regarding the decline in crime and prevention, direct intervention on the part of religious organizations and individuals in helping formerly incarcerated individuals towards economic empowerment and emotional stability. All of our conferences and gatherings have had follow-up post-conference dialogue sessions, strategic public forums and legislative engagements.
“There are times when guidance as to techniques and strategy is urgent, when counsel, support, and collective direct action are mandatory. But there can never be a substitute for taking personal responsibility for social change. The word ‘personal’ applies both to the individual and the organization-in this instance, the Church.” (Howard Thurman, With Head and Heart, p. 161
Contact: Email us at: email@example.com,
Mail us at: The Center for Church and Prison, Inc.P. O. Box 146, Boston MA 02121
Dr. George Walters-Sleyon is the founder of The Center for Church and Prison, Inc. He earned his PhD from the University of Edinburgh with an interdisciplinary background in Practical Theology, Comparative Criminal Justice (US and UK)/Criminology and Ethics (Christian and Social). Dr. Walters has a Master of Divinity and Postgraduate Master in Sacred Theology in Religion, Philosophy, Theology and Social Ethics from Boston University.
Dr. Walters is a “McDonald Distinguished Fellow” with Emory University Center for the Study of Law and Religion. This internationally recognized center seeks to promote and produce “innovative research and scholarship, exemplary teaching and training, robust public engagement and generous support of individual faculty initiatives at the intersection of law and religion.” He serves as an Adjunct Professor at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston where he teaches Philosophy, Applied Ethics, and World Religions. His personal website is: www.georgewaltersleyon.com