Theological Education in Prisons

March 23, 2020

Prison bars event

Conference Overview

Despite increasing public attention to our current mass incarceration crisis, the United States still incarcerates more people (both in absolute numbers and per capita) than any other nation in the world. Roughly 2.3 million individuals are currently incarcerated in jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers. The call for the Church to care for those in prison is clear but discerning the best course of action to fulfill this call is challenging.

Using frameworks of reform or frameworks of abolition, many civic organizations, educational institutions, and religious congregations have pursued varied responses to the crisis. Churches and church members may work to raise awareness, get involved in political organizing, or volunteer to visit or correspond with those in prison. There is also a growing movement in the Church and its institutions to offer theological education in prisons as a response to this crisis.

This one-day conference, Theological Education in Prisons: The Incarceration Crisis and the Church, seeks to identify and learn from current approaches to theological education in prisons.

Call for Papers

We invite papers and extended abstracts that address the Church’s role at the intersection of incarceration, theological education, community, and faith formation. We welcome scholars and practitioners from a broad array of disciplines.

Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • What are the promises and/or pitfalls of centering theological education as a response to the broad social ill of (mass) incarceration?
  • Current methods and models of theological education in prisons (e.g., classroom pedagogy, building a culture within the program, participant/student/faculty orientation, degree vs. certificate, religious services vs. educational services, etc.).
  • What are the challenges to inside models of theological education?
  • What, if anything, distinguishes prison ministry from theological education inside?
  • What are the blessings of programs offering theological education inside?
  • Theological resources that inform your approach to theological education in prisons.
  • Scriptural, doctrinal, or theological categories that may help the Church think about and act more faithfully with respect to theological education in prisons.
  • (Theological) education in prisons and the common good
  • Justice and/in theological education in prison
  • How can theological education programs in prison take into account the religious underpinnings of the American penitentiary and penal systems? What distinctive responsibilities and opportunities do theological institutions of higher learning have based on the history of prisons in the United States?
  • How does the specific carceral context (gender, state vs. federal, region of the country, jail vs. prison, short-term vs. long-term sentences, private vs. public, etc.) impact your program’s approach to theological education?

Guide for Authors:

  • We welcome full paper submissions (between 5,000 – 7,000 words excluding footnotes), as well as extended abstracts (minimum 500 words).
  • Presentations at the conference should range from 35-45 minutes and will be followed by a 45-minute Q&A and discussion. Audio-visual capabilities are available upon request.
  • Please e-mail submissions to: coned@ptsem.edu with “Theological Education in Prisons” in the subject line.
  • Deadline for submission: January 24, 2020
  • Notification of acceptance: January 31, 2020
  • Up to three papers will be selected for presentation and discussion at the March 23, 2020 conference at Princeton Theological Seminary.

    Those selected to present at the conference will receive roundtrip transportation to Princeton Theological Seminary (up to $500), conference registration (including conference meals), and one night’s lodging at The Erdman Center on the Seminary campus.


8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Registration and continental breakfast
9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Welcome and paper #1 presented with discussion
10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Coffee break
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Paper #2 presented with discussion
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Paper #3 presented with discussion
3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Closing summary presentation

Registration & Fees

Pastors, practitioners, volunteers, scholars, and seminary students are invited to register.

A light continental breakfast, lunch, and coffee break are included. Lodging is available, at an additional charge, at The Erdman Center on the Princeton Theological Seminary campus. Information about booking lodging is included in the registration confirmation. A limited number of seminary students may attend at no charge but must register to secure a place.

Fee: $40
Seminary Students: No charge

Register Now

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Senior Pastor, Asbury United Methodist Church, Atlantic City, NJ

Latasha Milton, Class of 2018

“My passion is doing what I can to empower and liberate people who are hurting. PTS has made me a better person and pastor because it’s given me the tools to better serve the oppressed and marginalized.”