Changes in the American religious landscape enabled the rise of mass incarceration. Religious ideas and practices also offer a key for ending mass incarceration. These are the bold claims advanced by Break Every Yoke. Once, in an era not too long past, Americans, both incarcerated and free, spoke a language of social liberation animated by religion. In the era of mass incarceration, we have largely forgotten how to dream—and organize—this way. To end mass incarceration we must reclaim this lost tradition. Properly conceived, the movement we need must demand not prison reform but prison abolition.
Break Every Yoke weaves religion into the stories about race, politics, and economics that conventionally account for America's grotesque prison expansion of the last half century, and in so doing it sheds new light on one of our era's biggest human catastrophes. By foregrounding the role of religion in the way political elites, religious institutions, and incarcerated activists talk about incarceration, Break Every Yoke is an effort to stretch the American moral imagination and contribute resources toward envisioning alternative ways of doing justice. By looking back to nineteenth century abolitionism, and by turning to today's grassroots activists, it argues for reclaiming the abolition "spirit."
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About the Authors
Joshua Dubler is an assistant professor of
religion at the University of Rochester and the coauthor of Bang! Thud:
World Spirit from a Texas School Book Depository. He has spent more than
six years working with prisoners at the Graterford Prison.
About Leon Nixon
Leon Nixon is a professional actor, playwright, and filmmaker. A Los Angeles native, he has performed in short films, web series, and on stage in dramatic and comedic roles. He is also an improviser and part of the group that appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Continuous Improv Show.