American Prisons: A Critical Primer on Culture and Conversion to Islam, is an anthology that represents over a decade of investigating, researching and writing on prison culture. This critical exploration of prisons in contemporary America pieces together how problems in prison are not isolated from society; unlike the Las Vegas slogan, what happens in prison doesn’t stay in prison. Prisons are not neatly cornered off from society, but rather, are partners in toxic relationships with the communities to which ex-prisoners return. Against these sinister cultural developments, the book juxtaposes the quest for God and religious conversion. More specifically, widespread conversion to Islam over many generations has made prisons an important factor for the growth of Islam in America.
The book draws on a range of data and sources, including interviews and written correspondence with current and ex-prisoners, documentary research, and congressional hearings on topics that include criminal justice and religion, culture, conversion, radicalization, and reform.
"For me personally, reading this body of work has been a gift especially because of the systematic attention throughout the work to the place of religion. I have come to believe that religion is perhaps the most important and least understood or studied of all the significant cultural inputs to our present punitive complex. Few legal scholars today know their biblical sources of punitiveness nearly as well as SpearIt. Yet here almost certainly lies some of the deepest and least understood sources of our appetites for extreme punishments."
Jonathan Simon, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law, and author of Governing through Crime.
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