Voices From
American Prisons

In Voices from American Prisons: Faith, Education and Healing (Routledge, 2014), Kaia offers an analysis of penal confinement as well as avenues for reform. Inspired by the people who have lived, worked, and studied in US prisons, Kaia invites us to acknowledge and rethink the current “punishment crisis.”

Based on in-depth interviews with people who were incarcerated, as well as extensive conversations with students, teachers, prison staff, and administrators, the book describes the history of punishment and prison education in the United States and introduces the voices of those who have participated in the few remaining postsecondary education programs that exist behind bars. Drawing on contemporary case examples, Kaia demonstrates how prison education can provide healing and yet still not be enough to interrupt mass incarceration.

Voices from American Prisons speaks to criminologists, sociologists, historians, theologians, and scholars of education. The book’s engaging, human accounts also capture general readers who are interested in learning about an often silenced reality of modern society and who are ready to help move our retributive punishment system to a system of justice.

“In this important new book Kaia Stern takes us inside the prisons that incarcerate millions of Americans, to reveal their hardships and suffering, as well as their hopes and aspirations. By exposing us to their voices and humanizing their experience, we are reminded that mass incarceration has come at a cost, not only to those who waste away behind bars, but to those of us who sit idly by and pretend it doesn’t concern us. This book will be an invaluable resource for educators, policymakers and activists who seek to create and advocate for prisons that are humane, offer genuine opportunities for rehabilitation and provide those housed within a basis for hope.

Professor of Education, UCLA Graduate School of Education

Our fears of those who are, or have been, incarcerated, lead us to forget our common humanity. Kaia Stern’s book is a phenomenal guide to understanding how an inclusive beloved community becomes possible. Voices from American Prisons points us to the path of true justice, rooted in non-violence, faith and transformative educational opportunities for those caught in the punishment system.
— Leslie M. Harris
Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities, Emory University
Voices from American Prisons is a powerful and careful analysis of the historical, religious, and political forces that shape ideas and have justified the harmful actions with regard to punishment in the United States. No one who reads this book will ever again be able to see people in prison as an evil, inhuman ‘other.’ Listen to the voices in this book; they will transform you. They have the power and the grace to guide all of us down a better path toward healing and true justice.
— Charles J. Ogletree Jr.
Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"This is a truly necessary book, a deeply challenging and insightful exploration of the religious and political belief systems that have made it possible for us, as a nation, to deny the humanity of millions and to build a massive penal system unprecedented in world history. It places the voices of those we have caged at the center and, in so doing, opens our minds and hearts to the transformative possibilities of education, faith, and community. This is a book to be read and shared, over and over again."

Visiting Faculty, Union Theological Seminary




Why Prison Education Is Not Enough

Saint Louis University Public Law Review 33, no. 2

Shackles and Sunlight

Special series, “Transformation of/in Prisons,” Fellowship 77, nos. 1–3
(Spring 2011)