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A Stark Examination of Prison Culture and Prison Ministry


  • R.N. Ristad, Jr

    1. The Reverend R.N. Ristad, Jr., M.Div. is the Protestant Chaplain, Napa State Hospital in Napa, CA, and Diplomate, College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.
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Abstract:  This article offers an insightful examination of prison ministry from the inside, from someone who has been involved with this ministry for over forty-five years. The author discusses four major issues that are particularly costly, both in terms of personal human costs and also financial costs. First, society's misconceptions about prison violence, and the complex, varied ways prisoners experience violence. Second, the false sense of security the current practices of institutionalization create, and the consequences they have on the inmates. Third, the risk factors that can predispose children to ending up in prison, and the lack of care and attention those children often receive. And fourth, the way in which the criminalization of drug abuse has exacerbated many problems with the current prison system. The author concludes his article with some suggestions for reforming the prison system.