In This Place Called Prison offers a vivid account of religious life within an institution designed to punish. Rachel Ellis conducted a year of ethnographic fieldwork inside a U.S. state women’s prison, talking with hundreds of incarcerated women, staff, and volunteers. Through their stories, Ellis shows how women draw on religion to navigate lived experiences of carceral control. A trenchant study of religion colliding and colluding with the state in an enduring tension between freedom and constraint, this book speaks to the quest for dignity and light against the backdrop of mass incarceration, state surveillance, and American inequality.
In This Place Called Prison Women's Religious Life in the Shadow of Punishment
About the Book
Reviews"This is sociology at its best: counterintuitive, theoretically rigorous, methodologically sound, substantively important, and beautifully written. For scholars and researchers interested in the latent functions that seemingly benign institutions play in the domination of vulnerable populations, I cannot recommend Rachel Ellis's In This Place Called Prison more enthusiastically."—Sandra Susan Smith, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, Harvard Kennedy School
"Few works expose the core of America's complex religion of punishment and patriarchy better than this remarkable book. It is a revelation, a reckoning, and hopefully a Road to Damascus moment for the field."—Shadd Maruna, author of Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives
"Through deft storytelling and sensitive ethnography, Ellis unravels the symbiosis of two quintessentially American institutions—prison and Christianity. Through the eyes of women behind bars, we witness religion's counterintuitive power to ease but also exacerbate the pains of imprisonment."—Forrest Stuart, author of Down, Out, and Under Arrest: Policing and Everyday Life in Skid Row
"In This Place Called Prison adds a much-needed carceral ethnography to the dearth of scholarship on women's prisons and offers powerful new insights into the role of religion in incarcerated women's lives. A beautifully written and important work."—Jody Miller, author of Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence
"Ellis's book is a timely and important contribution to the growing body of ethnographic literature on the societal effect of mass incarceration. This gripping and well-written account provides a fresh perspective not only on the understudied demographic of women in prison but also on how imprisonment takes a brutal and unrecognized toll on women, the rest of their families, and their religious lives."—Elijah Anderson, author of Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner CityRead More >