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Panel discussion examines the present and future role of religion in contemporary prisons, October 27, 2009.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY-Vassar's Office of Religious and Spiritual Life in partnership with Vassar Prison Programs, Dutchess Collaborative Reentry Program, and the Dutchess Interfaith Council, will present the panel discussion "Religion in Prison in the 21st Century," on Tuesday, October 27. The discussion, free and open to the public, will begin at 5:30pm in Sanders Classroom Spitzer Auditorium (room 212).

"This program will introduce a wider public to the work of prison chaplains, dispelling myths, and providing diverse perspectives on the transformations and challenges experienced by those who accompany incarcerated people on their way to re-enter community life," noted the Rev. Samuel Speers, director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

The panel, with current and former prison chaplains, will examine the present and future role of religion in contemporary prisons.

"Men and women in prison come to be consoled, as when a family member has died, and they also come for fellowship and a reminder that they too are people of dignity, people made in the image of God," observed Vassar alumnus Petero Sabune, class of 1977, the Protestant Chaplain at Sing-Sing Correctional Facility and lead organizer of the panel discussion.

The panelists from the Sing-Sing Correctional Facility will include the Rev. John Dunn, the Roman Catholic Chaplain; Imam Hassan Mumim, the Muslim Chaplain; and Vassar alumnus and Protestant Chaplain, the Rev. Petero Sabune. In addition, the Rev. Ed Muller, the retired head chaplain of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, and the Rev. Maria Lopez, a former chaplain at Bedford Correctional Facility (Bedford, NY), will participate in the discussion.

Lawrence Mamiya, founder of Vassar's Green Haven Prison Program and a professor of religion and Africana studies at Vassar, will introduce the panel. Other participants will be announced.


The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) helps students integrate lives of passionate commitment, embodied practice, and intellectual critique at Vassar and beyond. The RSL programs articulate a lively public role for religious imagination and ensure that opportunities for spiritual and democratic formation are part of the demanding and creative education Vassar offers.

Vassar's Prison Programs include two that were founded by Professor Lawrence Mamiya: the Green Haven Prison Program celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and a program at Otisville medium security prison. These academic courses enable Vassar students to participate in dialogue groups with incarcerated men. Over the years, the groups have discussed a variety of topics including: domestic violence, fatherhood, family, communication skills, victim awareness, current events awareness, housing and jobs in the outside community, and community reentry. One of the main goals of the program is to prepare incarcerated men to reenter the outside community.

Political science professor Mary (Molly) Shanley, director of the Learning, Teaching and Research Center, and sociology professor Eileen Leonard, teach a course together at Taconic Correctional Facility (a medium security prison for women) in Bedford Hills, NY. Vassar students, along with incarcerated women, study contemporary social issues for college credit.

The Dutchess Collaborative Reentry Project's mission is to reduce recidivism by orchestrating collaborative outreach efforts between faith-based institutions, community based organizations, and government support agencies in Dutchess County.

The Dutchess Interfaith Council (DCIC) is one of the oldest, continuous interfaith organizations in the United States. Founded in 1972 with 70 original charter members, the Council has grown to over 90 member congregations today. In and through the DCIC, people from different religious traditions work together on significant community programs and get to know and understand one another.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, October 16, 2009