The astonishing expansion of prisons raises troubling questions about treatment of prisoners, damage to families and communities, and the justice of a system that requires ever more prisoners for financial stability. Our contributors offer a theological critique of the prison system and articulate positive responses for Christian disciples.

"God's justice is fundamentally a restoring and renewing justice," Chris Marshall concludes in his survey of the biblical approach to corrective justice. "Knowing this, the Church is obliged to practice restorative justice in its own ranks and to summon society to move in the same direction." Andrew Skotnicki extends the case for restorative justice by reviewing the development of prisons in the Christian monastic tradition. Describing the victim-orientation of restorative justice principles, Lisa Rea writes, "Restorative justice promises to move us away from warehousing offenders and toward a system that leads offenders to personal accountability and allows victims to heal."

When John Thompson reviews Karl Barth's sermons preached in Basil Prison, he discovers, "Barth challenges us to find solidarity with prisoners. To do so is to follow Jesus who identified with prisoners. Barth is only asking us to do the same as Christ's disciples." In moving portraits of their varied prison ministries, Dick Allison, Alesha Seroczynski, Sarah Jobe, and Mary Alice Wise share how they practice Christian solidarity with prisoners and their families today.

The study guides and lesson plans integrate Bible study, prayer, and worship to address the troubling moral questions raised by the current penal system. The guides can be used in a series or individually. You may download and reproduce them for personal or group use.

Download the entire Prison issue and the set of five Study Guides. Or, download individual pieces by clicking the titles below.



Hymn and Worship Service

Inspirational Pieces


  • "Christian Critiques of the Penal System," by L. Lynette Parker
    • Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, A Place of Redemption: A Christian Approach to Punishment and Prison
    • James Samuel Logan, Good Punishment? Christian Moral Practice and U. S. Imprisonment
    • Andrew Skotnicki, Criminal Justice and the Catholic Church
    • T. Richard Snyder, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment
  • "Resources for Restorative Justice," by Kenneth L. Carder
    • Christopher Marshall, Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment
    • Lawrence W. Sherman and Heather Strang, Restorative Justice: The Evidence
    • Karen Heetderks Strong and Daniel W. Van Hess, Restoring Justice: An Introduction to Restorative Justice
    • Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice

Study Guides and Lesson Plans (Download the set of five Study Guides)