Conversion and the Rehabilitation of the Penal System: A Theological Rereading of Criminal Justice

ISBN : 9780190880835

Andrew Skotnicki
216 ページ
156 x 235 mm

The Cincinnati Penal Congress of 1870 ushered in the era of "progressive" penology: the use of statistical and social scientific methodologies, commitment to psychiatric and therapeutic interventions, and a new innovation-the reformatory-as the locus for the application of these initiatives. The prisoner was now seen as a specimen to be analyzed, treated, and properly socialized into the triumphal current of American social and economic life. Of course, the Progressive rehabilitative initiatives succumbed in the 1970s to withering criticism from the proponents of equally futile strategies for addressing "the crime problem": retribution, deterrence, and selective incapacitation. The early Christian community developed a methodology for correcting human error that featured the unprecedented belief that a period of time spent in a given penitential locale, with the aid and encouragement of the community, was sufficient in and of itself to heal the alienation and self-loathing caused by sin and to lead an individual to full reincorporation into the community. The "correctional" practice was based upon the conviction that cooperative sociability-or conversion-is possible, regardless of the specific offense and that there is no need to inflict suffering or use the act of punishment as a warning to potential offenders or to intervene in the life of the offender with rehabilitation. Andrew Skotnicki contends that the modern practice of criminal detention is a protracted exercise in needless violence predicated upon two foundational errors. The first is an inability to see the imprisoned as human beings fully capable of responding to an affirmative accompaniment rather than maltreatment and invasive forms of therapy. The second is a pervasive dualism that constructs a barrier between the detainee and those empowered to supervise, rehabilitate, and punish them. In this book, Skotnicki argues that the criminal justice system can only be rehabilitated by eliminating punishment and policies based upon deterrence, rehabilitation, and the incapacitation of the urban poor and returning to the original justification for the practice of confinement: conversion.


Chapter I - The State of Penal Ideology and Penal Affairs
Liberal Polities and the Ontology of Violence
Divided Hearts and Minds
Systemic Results of Ideological Disorientation
Chapter II - It is Wrong to Punish Anyone for Any Reason
Criminal Justice as Inclusion
Outline of the Retributive Position
Religious Defenses of Retributivism
Critique of Retributivism
Outline and Critique of Deterrence
Thoughts on Incapacitation
Concluding Thoughts
Chapter III - Conversion as Inclusion
The Prison as Metaphor for Introspection
The Meaning of Conversion
Phenomenology of Conversion
The Crisis
An Experience of Undeserved Compassion
A New Identity in a New Community
Accountability and Character Reform
A Process of Progressive Participation
Conversion and the State of Criminal Justice
Chapter IV - What is Wrong with Rehabilitation?
The Proponents of Rehabilitation
Good Lives Model
Other Rehabilitative Approaches
Areas of Agreement and Possible Cooperation
Chapter V - How Conversion Can Rehabilitate the Penal System
Outline of a Penitential Mode of Confinement
Social Rudiments of a Conversion Paradigm
Confinement and Conversion
Concluding Thoughts


Andrew Skotnicki teaches theological and criminological ethics at Manhattan College in New York City. He has published widely on the theological and ethical implications of criminal justice. He is the founder and director of the E3MC program (Engaging, Educating, Empowering Means Change), a partnership between Manhattan College and the New York City Department of Corrections.