“Buddhist Ministry and the Prison-Industrial Complex” — A New UWest Course I’m Co-Teaching with Jane Naomi Iwamura

The professors and students for the University of the West class MDIV 601: “Buddhist Ministry and the Prison-Industrial Complex” at a protest against SB105 at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Los Angeles, CA, on September 10, 2013. Photo by Linda Hayward.

This semester, as part of my fall course load at University of the West (where I am an associate professor and Chair of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Department), I’m co-teaching a brand new course with my fellow associate professor and Chair of the Religious Studies Department, Jane Naomi Iwamura. This is has been an exciting development, not only because of a great group of enrolled students and the opportunity to work with a most admired friend in Jane — whose recent interview on New Books in Religion you shouldn’t miss, by the way — but also because of the subject: “Buddhist Ministry and the Prison-Industrial Complex.”

Recently, UWest has begun offering classes for prisoners in California facilities. With encouragement and support from our Emeritus President Lewis Lancaster, and under Jane’s careful leadership, some of our Chaplaincy and Religious Studies students are running a course at both Chuckawalla Valley State Prison and Calipatria State Prison based on a recorded lecture series by Dr. Lancaster. Other courses will follow soon.

In addition to the classes for prisoners, I thought it might be a good idea to run a course at UWest for our Chaplaincy and Religious Studies students on prison issues. The result was “Buddhist Ministry and the Prison-Industrial Complex.”

In the course description, Jane and I write:

The course examines the historic participation of Buddhists in ministry activities within the prison-industrial complex. Most of the focus will be on the United States, but India, Great Britain, and other countries will receive some attention as well. Through their in-depth look at a ministry setting in which Buddhist Americans have been particularly active, students will gain a robust knowledge of both operating within specialized care settings and justice issues within the U.S. prison system.

In addition to the reading and multimedia material will we will be exploring, we will host guest speakers in person and via Skype, visit LA’s Homeboy Industries, and (hopefully) visit our member of Congress to discuss an issue near and dear to the Chaplaincy Department’s heart: the fact that (at the moment) Buddhists (and others) may not be employed as full-time, paid chaplains at California state prisons. Also, just this week, Jane and I took the students to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles as part of a protest against SB 105.

Among their assignments for the class, the students will produce a white paper proposing solutions to issues of particular concern to them, as well as an internet “meme” of some kind of that same issue or another.

Jane and I have received a number of inquiries about the content of the course, and so I felt it might be a good thing to share our syllabus with you all here at this blog. Below you will find our fifteen-week plan for the semester, complete with assigned readings (with links wherever possible).

*     *     *

Introductions

Contemporary Prison Issues (I)

Contemporary Prison Issues (II)

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Buddhist Ministry and the Prison-Industrial Complex (I)

  • “Angulimala: A Story of the Power of Compassion” in Love in Buddhism by Walpola Piyananda Thera
  • selections from The Edicts of King Asoka by Venerable S. Dhammika
  • “The Angulimala Lineage: Buddhist Prison Ministries” by Virgina Cohn Parkum and J. Anthony Stultz in editor Christopher S. Queen’s Engaged Buddhism in the West
  • Sitting Inside: Buddhist Practice in America’s Prisons by Kobai Scott Whitney

Buddhist Ministry and the Prison-Industrial Complex (II)

  • Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism: A Sourcebook for Prison Chaplains, Administrators, and Security Personnel by Kobutsu Malone
  • The Prison Dharma Network Volunteer Training Manual by Kate Crisp and Fleet Maull
  • “Prison Chaplaincy” in Benefit Beings!: The Buddhist Guide to Professional Chaplaincy by Danny Fisher

Buddhist Ministry and the Prison-Industrial Complex (III)

Interlude: A field trip to Homeboy Industries

The Voices of Buddhist Prisoners (I)

  • Razor-Wire Dharma: A Buddhist Life in Prison by Calvin Malone

The Voices of Buddhist Prisoners (II)

The Voices of Buddhist Prisoners (III)

  • Dharma in Hell: The Prison Writings of Fleet Maull by Fleet Maull

The Voices of Buddhist Prisoners (IV)

  • The Dhamma Brothers (2007), dir. Jenny Phillips

Buddhist Approaches to Healing and Restorative Justice

What’s Happening in California, and What We Can Do (I)

What’s Happening in California, and What We Can Do (II)

Conclusions

  • handouts / links to stories, reports, essays about more current prison issues

Addendum: Recommended Reading

  • The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society by Norval Morris and David J. Rothman
  • Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California by Ruth Wilson Gilmore
  • Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison by Lorna A. Rhodes
  • Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison by Joshua Dubler
  • Prison Religion: Faith-Based Reform and the Constitution by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
  • Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account Of The Death Penalty In The United States by Helen Prejean
  • We’re All Doing Time: A Guide to Getting Free by Bo Lozoff
  • Ministry to the Incarcerated by Henry G. Covert
  • The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr
  • Frontline episode “The New Asylums”
  • Frontline episode “The Released”

(L-R) The author and Jane Naomi Iwamura at a protest against SB105 at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Los Angeles, CA, on September 10, 2013. Photo by Thich Nu Le Ngo.


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