Tanya Erzen, University of Puget Sound professor
September 25, 2015

LACEY, Wash. – Tanya Erzen, a writer and professor whose work focuses on American religion with particular interests in American conservatism, ethnography and critical prison studies, will launch the 10th year of the Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture series as guest speaker September 25. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 4 p.m. in Harned Hall #110, located on the Saint Martin’s University campus, 5000 Abbey Way SE.

Erzen, associate research professor of religion, and gender and queer studies at the University of Puget Sound and a 2013 Soros Justice Media Fellow, will speak on “God in Captivity: Punishment and Redemption in America’s Faith-Based Prisons.” Based on her forthcoming book from Harvard University Press, Erzen will address questions that arise when considering contemporary, faith-based prison programs that operate under the logic that religious conversion and redemption will transform prisoners into new human beings.

Her talk will focus on several issues: Why are Christian prison ministries on the rise amidst an increasingly punitive system of mass incarceration? How do people in prison practice religion in a space of coercion and discipline? What are the implications of the state's promotion of Christianity over other religious traditions in some prisons? How do faith-based programs enable individual transformation? And, why have conservative Christians, particularly, embraced criminal justice reform?

Her first book, “Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement” (California, 2006), received the Ruth Benedict Prize and the Gustave O. Arlt award. Erzen also authored “Fanpire: The Religion of Twilight” (Beacon Press, 2012) and is co-editor of “Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City” (NYU, 2001). She is a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Open Society foundations and Hedgebrook Writer in Residency.

Erzen is also executive director of the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, an organization that provides college classes to women in Washington prisons and seeks to educate the public about educational access and incarceration.

The Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture Series was created by Saint Martin’s University Professor of Criminal Justice Robert Hauhart, Ph.D., J.D., to raise awareness of social justice issues within the community. The series honors the work of Robert A. Harvie, J.D., former professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Saint Martin’s.

For more information, contact Robert Hauhart at 360-438-4525 or rhauhart@stmartin.edu.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washing­ton. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedic­tine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,100 undergraduate students and 340 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College.

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For additional information:
Robert Hauhart, Ph. D., J.D.
Chair, Department of Society and Social Justice
360-438-4525; rhauhart@stmartin.edu

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media Relations Manager
Saint Martin’s University
360-412-6126; mdwyer@stmartin.edu