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Islamic and Christian Conversion in Prison

November 26, 2014

My latest article Religious Conversion in Prison: Prosocial V. Antisocial Identities appears in the International Journal of Education and Social Science, Research Institute for Progression of Knowledge.

In this article “Prisoner transformation through religious conversion is a varied pathway where the reasons for seeking change, for selecting religion as a means of change, the selection of a helper, the religious group affiliated with and the effect of social, cultural and political factors create subtle distinctions in how one experiences conversion or not and if so, how transformation develops and proceeds toward anti- or pro-social outcomes.  Does this tell us anything that we may later quantify and statistically base predictions upon? In responding to this question there are seven points worthy of consideration.

First, religious conversion and transformation in identity is a “much nuanced pathway”.

Second, what is found in both religions is that there are many “forks in the road” during the conversion process and transforming identities. Forks were evidenced in both the inclusivist and exclusivist religious community identity and in the incorporationist and rejectionist worldview identity.

Third, the narratives evidenced that religion is just one alternative for gaining knowledge of self. Other alternatives are education, counseling, and gangs.

Fourth, in comparing Christian and Islamic participants it emerged that not all of either faith who experience religious conversion and become inclusivist or exclusivist and in both types there are both incorporationists and rejectionists. Of the 22 participants 2 coding exclusive and 2 coding inclusive were rejecting of society. Moreover of those coding both exclusive and rejecting one was Christian and one was Islamic. Most participants were cooperative toward larger society whether inclusive or exclusive in religious identity.

Fifth, in each religion no definitive process of radicalization emerged although one participant professing Islam and that coded exclusive/rejecting spoke of hate of white people and racism. And, in another case a professing Christian that coded exclusive/rejecting spoke of leading people in violent opposition to government.

Sixth, the four participants coded rejectionist used particular words related to specific concepts that disassociated and sanctified their anti-social behavior even in light of their profession of religion and spirituality.

Seventh, descriptive words and phrases may be operationalized in relation to concepts and scales created to quantify findings in future studies.

Policy Implications for Corrections and Directions for Research

This research establishes a model study for giving prisoners a voice in their transformation, it offers guidelines for study of religious conversion in prison, provides assistance to the correctional system and supports the professional and volunteer chaplaincy as part of an overall prison treatment program designed to help individuals seeking to change their lives pro-socially to do so, to desist from crime and thereby reduce their chances of returning to prison. Findings support a conclusion that isolating one religion as a radicalizing source unduly burdens free practice of religion and fails to recognize other religions have similar tendencies. As noted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2008) restrictions on any non-Christian religion must not result in having their “free exercise” rights to practice religion unduly burdened by the state without a compelling interest.

Prison administrators, chaplains, psychologists, counselors are better equipped to understand how including religion or spirituality into correctional treatment assists desistance (stopping crime) and thereby helps prisoners help themselves not return to prison. It promotes a better understanding of how involving the felon in an active role will promote possible transformation to a pro-social member of society (Norcross & Wampold, 2010; Worthington, Hook, Davis, & McDaniel, 2010).

Importantly, the findings support the need for an interdisciplinary approach where treatment professionals and institutional administrators work holistically with religious services as part of an overall treatment program.  Simultaneously it speaks to the need for trained volunteers for all religious faiths served by the prison chaplaincy programs. It therefore provides support and direction for prison chaplaincy and volunteer programs and enhances chaplaincy as a correctional profession.

Thoughts on American Sociality

June 29, 2015

I believe we have much uncertainty in America today. Not discounting the fact that uncertainty is always a factor of life. I recall the uncertainty of the. 60s & 70s. Movements then were daily variables of life, Vietnam, Black Power, Brown Berets, Native American and the beginnings of the Gay movement that later coupled and grew into LGBT. Socialism was on the scene then and in my dad’s young adulthood of the 1930s there was also the Nazi movement in America. Guthrie’s music spun from this era. But, today there is lacking any grounding. Then there was a fair amount of trust in our government. Whether the 30s or 60s even the ones that wanted to change society trusted that basic needs to sustain bare life would be protected by government. Maybe I am incorrect, but I see that basic trust waning quickly in our society today.

I believe there is a growing segment of society today that not only seeks the change that each generation seeks, but moreover unlike past times fail to believe our govt can or even wants to provide protection to citizens. Rather I believe they perceive the government overwhelmingly using and manipulating citizenry and even illegal immigrants and minority groups for the advance of the elite few that dictate the majority rule. This leaves growing numbers of our society either mystified into believing the powers that be or on the other hand cognizant of the manipulation and merely surviving in a state of anomie. Strain in our society is distorting government purpose, religiosity, and social relationships.

Letters From Death Row: Faith Behind Bars

June 25, 2015

Here is the link to an article in the #TexasObserver. In this article UK and US free lancer Alex Hannaford interviews me. #prisonReligion

Hate Dogma and Symbols

June 19, 2015

Many of you that follow me know my position on hate and violence. Hate and violence are a cancer that is consuming not only our US culture but world-wide civility in social intercourse. The case of Dylann Roof, the 21 year old white male who attacked and killed members of the Emanuel African American Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina is a case in point. These growing acts of terrorism in America must be curtailed.

Violence often erupts and is perpetuated by distortions in identity confirming symbols. Distortions may be dogmatized by symbols in the form of pictures or ideals and are often linked to patriotism that is mobilized by religious, cultural or hate driven fears or other individualisms.

I want to exemplify this in the confederate Battle Flag otherwise called the Stars and Bars. Although this flag, one of many confederate flags, is not the Confederate National flag it has been embodied by many as an identifier of patriotism; a symbol. Identity is a ‘quality’ of understanding about belonging. This understanding of identity is one of multiple identities we share as human beings. Some qualities are good, some not so good, but some are bad. In the example, the Confederate Battle Flag creates identity ranging from ‘nobility and patriotism’ to extreme forms of ‘hate and patriotism’. Note the dogma of patriotism exists in both forms. Patriotism is a quality of social control that all groups and nations utilize to bond people together. Through social institutions we are socialized to internalize patriotism from birth. It can be used for good or bad and is a powerful mobilizer in time of perceived need.

I personally have no objection to a person taking pride in and displaying a flag no more than any other means of expressing identity. What is critical is the use of the flag symbol. Flags create intense feelings of patriotism that rival religiosity. The question begged is whether the design for patriotism is one of nobility or is it hate. Neither of these two outcomes may be controlled, they may only be regulated. No laws stamp out all dogmas. This resonates the more when these dogmas are entrenched in the culture and history of a people.

Thursday, the US Supreme Court in a 5:4 split decision, ruled against the Son’s of Confederate Veterans and in favor of the State of Texas holding that Texas did not violate the Constitution’s protection of free speech when the State refused to issue members of the group pre-authorized license plates bearing the flag. This is only my opinion but I believe the US Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of a State to deny previously approved stars and bars license plates will ultimately create a rallying point for those that identify the symbol with ‘patriotic hate’. A greater fear is that some who have in the past valued this symbol as a ‘patriotic nobility’ will change and start valuing it as ‘patriotic hate’. This is the last thing we need. However, when people who feel passionate about a previously legal ideal are denied this avenue of expression by laws which they perceive unfair in singling them out there is often patent and latent reaction campaigns to express themselves. In other words the Court has created a ‘martyr of the flag’. In my opinion this. Those like the terrorist and criminal Dylann Roof in South Carolina will be invigorated in seeking recognition through more violent public displays.

Monday Evening Reflections on Identity

May 9, 2015

Just some Monday evening reflection.

This semester I served on a Masters Committee for one of my students. Today We convened for her Thesis Defense. She did superb. Part of her discussion involved political analysis of Edward Said’s definition of Orientalism and it’s effect upon identity and developing freedoms in the the so called Middle East.

As I contemplate her discussion and the state of the world’s numerous Nation-states, including our own USA I can’t help but consider the role of ‘civility’ in human interaction. It is interesting how uncivil our civilization has become. :)).

What role has ‘labeling’ had in the current status of politics, culture, racism, and ethnocentrism? I can’t help but consider that Orientalism is only one face of Janus. In fact it may only be one serpent of Medusa.

Suppose that t in reality those in high places use their power not only against other nations and to construct a foreign peoples identity, but that they also use their power against our own US citizens to shape our own understanding of who we are.

Glorified or berated as they may be, I suppose I remain favorable to much of what Marx and Engels postulated years ago. Perhaps a bit if Habermas is also appropriate as we consider the Neo-Citizenry that is being created in the void of the digital divide. Especially considering that as a digitalized people hidden, faceless, even devoid of much compassion in the online environment.

America: the Free

February 25, 2015

@famousquotenet: Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms. – Aristotle

The “Iron Rule of Power” doctrine says that ‘eventually even Democratic Republics will become centralized with a professional political elite.’

This occurs when the perhaps well meaning political elite perceive their ruling ability to be superior to the masses. In assuring the survival of the state and best functionality of society at large they will formulate an Oligarchy of the intelligentsia which will rule the society. The Oligarchy will regulate order and necessary change through the use of a strong military and military-like national law enforcement system. Social controls will be enforced through the use of severe and plentiful laws.

A problematic arises when groups within the citizenry realize that power is becoming too centralized and exclusive. Left unchallenged the intelligentsia will continue to slowly reorganize the society’s laws toward support of an Oligarchical leadership. During this time certain patriots or opportunists may attempt to enter the scene. These individuals and groups may seek to restore the Democratic Republic. Many of these challengers will be portrayed as traitors, whistle blowers and otherwise un-patriotic deviants or criminals. Where necessary to preserve the order of the change these groups will be silenced in the name of order, national security, or un-Americanism. Mass media will become a tool of the intelligentsia in managing the move from Democratic Republic to Oligarchy. Hence most of the public will be unaware of the change until all is complete.

In the midst of the transition from Democratic Republic to Oligarchy coups led by patriots and/ or opportunists may occur. These rallies in autonomy of the people may be marketed to the public as an attempt to restore order in the name of the people. If the coup is successful the leaders may restore the Democratic Republic or use their new power to establish authority in a Dictatorship.

Measuring Likelihood of Desistance From Crime Upon Release From Prison

February 24, 2015

Here is an article on prison systems across our nation that are attempting to predict continued criminal engagement among prisoners upon release.

The problem as I see it is that the questions being utilized attempts to predict future criminal engagement (criminality) in which the experience of prisonization in and of itself associates with a change in the individual.

Prisonization is the social and bureaucratic process of adjustment and adaptation of the individual to prison life. A major part of this adaptation involves ‘managing punishment ‘, ‘personal safety ‘ in a harsh climate and ‘learning how to navigate the bureaucracy of prison management and power and authority among the prisoner hierarchy’. These are multiple concerns which promote the ability to stay alive and hopefully remain sane and uninjured.

In the traditional measure, discussed in the article I am critiquing, what is being used as a predictor of future criminality upon release is the “ability to manage one’s life in order to maximize survival”. This appears to me to be an invalid measure for gauging desistance and predicting less likelihood for future criminal behavior upon release from prison. Rather it appears the current measure may be more indicative of greater criminality upon release as a result if the prison system itself.
Basically, prisonization teaches neutralization (to avoid seeing ones self as guilty) solidifies drift (where the felon takes on the full or a split identity embracing criminality as a legitimate means of attaining life goals, and teaching if better skills related to deviance and/or crime.

Rather what is needed is to focus on shifting prosocial identity as a predictor of desistance and less likelihood if recidivism. This is the heart of the model and measure I am currently working on. More to come.


February 15, 2015

When will people wake up? It is governments and their social institutions that change accepting children into rejecting adults? ~ Malcolm L. Rigsby


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