Prison and the Bible: Current Practices and Reflections from Isaiah

in International Journal of Public Theology
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There is wide agreement today that our prison system is fraught with problems. Opinion associates prisons with overcrowding, racism, human debasement, and with an inability to accomplish the reduction of crime. Further, there is also a partial antipathy ascribed to the general populace. Practically, citizens want governmental systems to provide for our security. Ideologically, there is a sense that leniency is foolhardy. However, as religious communities often equate crime with sin writ large, there is also a need to pursue wholeness in society. One way to do this is by reflecting on how punishment, prison in this case, can relate to restoration. This essay proceeds by examining the idea of imprisonment from two perspectives: by considering the history of prisons and current practices in the state of Oregon, and from the perspective of biblical literature. Thoughts on how a biblical perspective can engage culture follow this analysis.

Prison and the Bible: Current Practices and Reflections from Isaiah

in International Journal of Public Theology




Clear and ColeAmerican Corrections p. 48.


SeiterCorrections p. 22.








Ibid.22. The U.S. Supreme Court decision ending the ‘hands-off doctrine’ is found in Cooper v. Pate (1964).


Clear and ColeAmerican Corrections p. 57.


Ibid. p. 57.


John CalvinCommentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (4 vols.; trans. William Pringle; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1850–53; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker2009) 1:185.


Walter BrueggemannIsaiah 1–39 (Westminster Bible Companion; Louisville: Westminster John Knox1998) p. 195.


See Jean Louis Ska‘‘Persian Imperial Authorization’: Some Question Marks,’ in Persia and Torah: The Theory of Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch (ed. James W. Watts; sblsymS 17; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature 2001) p. 167.


Bernhard DuhmDas Buch Jesaia (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht1892); John Oswalt The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1–39 (nicot; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1986) 17–23; and H.G.M. Williamson The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition and Redaction (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1994).


On this point see YoungIsaiah3:26; and Joseph Blenkinsopp Isaiah 40–55: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (vol. 3; ab 19A; New York: Doubleday 2000–2003) p. 179.


Cf. Laurie E. Pearce‘New Evidence for Judeans in Babylonia,’ in Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period (ed. Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns2006) 401–02408.


For similar comments see BlenkinsoppIsaiah 40–55219; and Walter Brueggemann Isaiah 40–66 (Westminster Bible Companion; Louisville: Westminster John Knox 1998) p. 51.


So ChildsIsaiah p. 387; and Blenkinsopp Isaiah 40–55 p. 307.

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