An examination of the efforts of faith-based organizations to expand the rights of the formerly incarcerated
The use of religion to rehabilitate and redeem formerly incarcerated individuals has been a cultural touchstone of the modern era. Yet religious outreach to those with criminal records has typically been associated with an emphasis on private spirituality, with efforts focused on repentance, conversion, and restorative justice. This book sheds light on how faith-based organizations utilize the public arena, mobilizing to expand the social and political rights of former inmates.
In “Jesus Saved an Ex-Con,” Edward Orozco Flores profiles Community Renewal Society and LA Voice, two faith-based organizations which have actively waged community organizing campaigns to expand the rights of people with records. He illuminates how these groups help the formerly incarcerated re-enter broader communities through the expansion of citizenship rights and participation in civic engagement.
Most work on prisoner reentry has focused on how the behavior of those with records may be changed through interventions, rather than considering how those with records may change the society that receives them. Flores explores how the formerly incarcerated use redemption scripts to participate in civic engagement, to remove the felony conviction question from employment applications and to restrict the use of criminal background checks in housing and employment. He shows that people with records can redeem themselves while also challenging and changing the way society receives them.
“In this book, Edward Orozco Flores contributes to the growing debate on criminal justice reform by showing how ex-prisoners—now 'returning citizens'—are giving back to American communities. They give back not only by sharing their personal stories of moral redemption, but also by reclaiming forms of civic life and political empowerment against the grain of elite manipulation. Drawing on scholarly work in the sociology of religion, social movements, and civic life, Flores argues that 'prophetic redemption' may not only redeem ex-offenders’ own stories but also redeem the full promise of American democracy against the imposters that claim to speak in its name.”-Richard L. Wood,author of A Shared Future: Faith-Based Organizing for Racial Equity and Ethical Democracy