Reforming Theology Inside and Out

Mass Incarceration in the US


The reality of mass incarceration in the United States, where 2.2 million people are currently serv-ing lengthy sentences in constricted and heavily fortified spaces, clearly calls for political reform. In this paper, I describe the situation, reflect theologically upon the spatial division between in-siders (those incarcerated) and outsiders (those living outside of prison walls), and offer a re-sponse. The themes considered include: proximity and distance, place and space, racial and class-based othering, solidarity, and the body of Christ. Numerous legal and political reforms are needed to address the racial injustice and punitive nature of the current system. One reforming response is described: that of teaching students from inside and outside together in theological classrooms inside prisons. The reformation of mass incarceration requires complex political and theological responses that break down the geographic and cultural walls that divide and isolate insiders and outsiders from each other.