Spiritual Entrepreneurs

Florida's Faith-Based Prisons and the American Carceral State

By Brad Stoddard

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6308-1
    Published: April 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6307-4
    Published: April 2021
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6309-8
    Published: February 2021
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5912-9
    Published: February 2021

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The overall rate of incarceration in the United States has been on the rise since 1970s, skyrocketing during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and recently reaching unprecedented highs. Looking for innovative solutions to the crises produced by gigantic prison populations, Florida's Department of Corrections claims to have found a partial remedy in the form of faith and character-based correctional institutions (FCBIs). While claiming to be open to all religious traditions, FCBIs are almost always run by Protestants situated within the politics of the Christian right. The religious programming is typically run by the incarcerated along with volunteers from outside the prison. Stoddard takes the reader deep inside FCBIs, analyzing the subtle meanings and difficult choices with which the incarcerated, prison administrators, staff, and chaplains grapple every day. Drawing on extensive ethnographic research and historical analysis, Brad Stoddard argues that FCBIs build on and demonstrate the compatibility of conservative Christian politics and neoliberal economics.

Even without authoritative data on whether FCBIs are assisting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism rates, similar programs are appearing across the nation—only Iowa has declared them illegal under non-establishment-of-religion statutes. Exposing the intricate connections among incarceration, neoliberal economics, and religious freedom, Stoddard makes a timely contribution to debates about religion’s role in American society.

About the Author

Brad Stoddard is assistant professor of religious studies at McDaniel College.
For more information about Brad Stoddard, visit the Author Page.


"A vibrant study. . . . an intelligent take on an under-the-radar niche in the American prison system, and one that will raise eyebrows with readers interested in the intersection of faith and justice."—Publishers Weekly

“Superb . . . [the book] masterfully articulates historical explanations with critical ethnography,and allows us to understand both the macrostructural factors and the day-to-day ins and outs of faith-based prisons.” —Sociology of Religion

“Offers a detailed ethnographic account of one of the nation’s largest faith-based prison programs and as such is highly recommended.”—Journal of Church and State

“An excellent book that will likely be a springboard for future scholarship on faith-based prisons.”—Reading Religion

“Excellent . . . this book provides a detailed and beautifully analyzed account of the largest faith- and character-based prison program in U.S. state prisons.”—Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

“Stoddard provides a valuable, historically-informed portrait of a growing nexus that links state incarceration to local scenes of Christianity, and he asserts compellingly that they be theorized together. Here, we see Christianity’s fundamental effects across a Florida state institution.”–American Religion