Archives For Prison


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1626982848″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]Bearing Witness Within The
Ineffective Prison System
A Review of 

Refuge in Hell:
Finding God in Sing Sing

Ronald Lemmert

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2018.
Buy Now:  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1626982848″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B07FJZP18G” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]
Reviewed by Mary VanderGoot
Ronald Lemmert was a Catholic chaplain at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York for sixteen years. Refuge in Hell is his memoir. It is the story of why he chose to be a prison chaplain, why he stayed as long as he did, and why he left abruptly.

Prisons are grim places. The environment is rigid and unforgiving, but it is also unpredictable and dangerous. By reputation Sing Sing is among the worst. The first time Father Lemmert celebrated mass only twelve men from a population of 2000 attended. The chapel was “dirty and dingy….paint of the chapel walls was peeling….a large asbestos ceiling tile had become unglued and was hanging down.” (30) Lemmert determined to revitalize the chapel space and make it a place of refuge and calm.

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”250″ identifier=”1250124719″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”165″]One of the best new books
of recent weeks is…


The Sun Does Shine:
How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row

Anthony Ray Hinton

Hardback: St. Martins, 2018
Buy Now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1250124719″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B075DDDYHG” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]

This brief video from The Equal Justice Initiative
introduces the author’s story. Watch it now:

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1101907290″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”220″]Can a Murderer Change His Ways?

A Feature Review of 

Writing My Wrongs:
Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison

Shaka Senghor

Hardcover: Convergent, 2016
Buy now:  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1101907290″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B014NZJPDU” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link]  ]


Reviewed by Deborah Bloom


Is it possible for a violent murderer to change their ways and become a productive member of society? That is the question at the heart of Shaka Senghor’s engrossing New York Times bestselling memoir.

We first meet Shaka (birth name Jay) as he is growing up in an middle -class neighborhood on Detroit’s East side in the 1980s. At first Shaka is a happy child, an honor-roll student who dreams of becoming a doctor. But his life quickly unravels when Shaka runs away from home after his mother becomes more abusive after his parents’ divorce.

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1498201911″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”222″]Shattering our views
of Criminal Offenders

A Review of

Where The River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners. 
Michael McRay

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2016
Buy now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1498201911″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1498201911″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link]  ] 


Reviewed By Paul D. Gregory


In the documentary “What I want my words to do to you,” American playwright and activist Eve Ensler spoke of the metamorphosis in her thinking about incarcerated women in the Bedford Correctional Institution in Bedford Massachusetts. Similar to most of society, Ensler originally viewed these incarcerated women as “mistakes” saying:


“Everyone is here at Bedford because of a mistake. Some of those mistakes occurred within months—some within minutes. Most of the mistakes were dreadful, catastrophic. Now we [society] have frozen you in your mistake. Marked you forever. Held captive. Discarded. Hated for your mistake. You have essentially been forced to become your mistake, the walking daily embodiment of your mistake. Held in the monument constructed to punish mistakes. Before I came here to Bedford, I imagined you the women here—mistakes lying on mistake cots behind steel mistake bars. Mistakes do not have faces or feelings or histories or futures. They are bad. Mistakes. We must forget them—put them away” [ 1 ]


Most of the mistakes we make are forgivable. A young man fails to show up for his weekly coffee date with his best friend. A young woman breaks off her engagement to her significant other. We unthinkingly berate a coworker, causing hurt to her/him. Forgiveness is granted for a large majority of our own mistakes.

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1101907290″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”220″]This compelling new book releases today:

Writing My Wrongs:
Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison

Shaka Senghor

Hardback: Convergent Books, 2016
Buy now:  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1101907290″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [  [easyazon_link identifier=”B014NZJPDU” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]

We are pleased to run this excerpt…



Detroit, Michigan
September 2015

Earlier this year, I was rummaging through the footlocker where I store my journals, letters, and legal documents—the same locker that I carried from prison to prison for 19 years. I was looking for my parole papers when I came across a letter I had gotten from the godmother of my victim, nearly six years into my incarceration. It stopped me in my tracks.
The letter, dated July 31, 1997, had arrived during the point of my incarceration when I was torn between old instincts and new possibilities. I wanted to change—but I didn’t want it enough. If you had asked the corrections officers around me that day if they held any hope for me, they would have at least hesitated. More likely, they would have laughed.
But not the woman whose family I had shattered by a bullet. She had hope. She believed that transformation could happen, even for me.
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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1936365502″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”212″ alt=”Inside this Place” ]I am a big fan of the “Voices of Witness” series, and this volume is essential reading for Women’s History Month…

Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons

Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi, Editors

Paperback: McSweeney’s, 2014
Buy now:  [ [easyazon-link asin=”1936365502″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]

Inside This Place, Not of It is essential reading for anyone interested in the stories of women who compel us to see their humanity, tenacity, and value as people.  That the woman who share their stories here have lived within the vast U.S. criminal justice system reveals a hidden and heart-wrenching reality. Their voices insist that the civil and human rights abuses that take place daily behind the walls of our prisons and jails must be out in the open to be recognized and remedied.”
–Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black


Here’s one story from this important book:


Irma Rodriquez

 45, currently imprisoned

 Excerpted from Inside this Place, Not of It edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi. Published by Voice of Witness Books.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0802866476″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”Fyodor Dostoevsky” ]The Possibilities for Resurrection and New Life
A Feature Review of

Notes from the House of the Dead

Fyodor Dostoevsky

A New Translation.
Paperback: Eerdmans, 2013
Buy Now: [ [easyazon-link asin=”0802866476″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]  [ [easyazon-link asin=”B00FRMIYMW” locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]
Reviewed by Sara Olson Dean
The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy Dufresne, imprisoned as a young man. In a moment of daring, working alone in the warden’s office, Andy locks the door and plays a recording of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro over the PA system. Everyone in the prison can hear it, including the warden, who quickly begins the process of getting into his locked office. But while the music plays, the prisoners are transfixed. The film’s narrator, another convict, reflects, “I tell you those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away. And for the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free.”
This scene came to mind as I read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the House of the Dead. Convict Alexander Petrovich Gorianchikov is serving a decade-long sentence in one of Russia’s penal colonies in Siberia. He recalls the Christmas program put on by his fellow convicts. “Picture the prison, the shackles, the captivity, the long, sad years stretching ahead, a life as monotonous as water dripping on a gray autumn day – and suddenly all these oppressed captives are allowed for one short hour to relax their souls (161).” And, a few hours later, “the convicts dispersed joyfully and contentedly… These poor men were allowed to live a little in their own way, to enjoy themselves like human beings, to live a brief hour outside their prison existence (168).” This moment poignantly stands out against the dismal backdrop of a dehumanizing prison.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1595586431″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”106″ alt=”Michelle Alexander” ]One of the speakers I’m most anticipating at next week’s CCDA conference in New Orleans is Michelle Alexander.

Here is a video of her discussing her very important book:

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in An Age of Colorblindness
Michelle Alexander

Paperback: New Press, 2012
Buy now:  [ [easyazon-link asin=”1595586431″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]  [ [easyazon-link asin=”B0067NCQVU” locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]

This book will be featured in the CCDA Conference Bookstore that we will be running…

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”161097946X” locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”Will Campbell – And the Criminals”]The Hard Work of Living in the Here and Now

A Review of

And the Criminals With Him: Essays in Honor of Will D. Campbell and All the Reconciled.

Will Campbell and Richard C. Goode, eds.

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ [easyazon-link asin=”161097946X” locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]  [ [easyazon-link asin=”B0095J3TU0″ locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]

Reviewed by Chris Enstad


Will Campbell has been a Baptist preacher, campus pastor, and worked in the National Council of Churches during the height of the civil rights era.  His work in the field of reconciliation has earned him accolades and rebukes by liberal and conservative alike.  During the 60’s and 70’s Campbell’s work with the Committee of Southeran Churchmen confounded liberals who wished to damn racists to hell.  Campbell’s endearing message can be found in the now-closed journal Kattalegete, named for the Greek word for “Be Reconciled.”  In Scripture, Campbell discovered, Paul wrote to all sides of the Christian argument as though they were already reconciled to each other through Christ’s blood, the work had been done, now it was just up to us to realize it!

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“Spending the Holidays with Bonhoeffer”

A review of
God Is in the Manger:
Reflections on Advent and Christmas
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Reviewed by Alex Joyner

God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Translated by O.C. Dean, Jr.

Compiled and edited by Jana Reiss
Paperback: WJK Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent: one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other – things that are really of no consequence – the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted in God in the Manger (13)

GOD IS IN THE MANGER - BonhoefferThere is a deep hunger among us for more of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the once and future prophet.  Bonhoeffer’s death in a Nazi prison camp in the waning days of World War II left the Christian community with one of its more evocative unfinished stories.  The German theologian was deeply engaged with the challenges of his day, but there is so much that seems contemporary about him in the 21st century.

He was a colleague and disciple of Karl Barth, and in many ways his theological kin, but Bonhoeffer addressed his environment in ways that created a more engaged, lived theology.  As he watched the Christian church around him capitulate to Nazi ideology, Bonhoeffer foresaw the impotence and crumbling of the religious institutional structure.  And when he wrote about a “world come of age” in which humanity had finally outgrown its need of religion, it was inevitable that later generations of Westerners would see it as a prescient observation of their own world.

Publishers are hastily trying to feed this hunger with a slate of books.  2010 has already seen the publication of a monumental, if flawed, biography by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy [Thomas Nelson].  Though Metaxas leaves the reader wanting more insight and less reporting, (and much less clichéd prose), his book does have the virtue of immersing us once more in the story of Bonhoeffer’s life and in large passages of his writing.  Also this year, Fortress Press has continued its slow rollout of volumes in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works with the publication of its 800-page volume 8, Letters and Papers from Prison.  Three significant films on his life in the last decade have also contributed to making Bonhoeffer one of the hottest theologians of the 21st century some 55 years after his death.

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