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Latest and Upcoming Research


Affiliated Faculty

Fulfilling the center’s requirement for high-caliber research and recognizing the inherent value of global learning and collaboration, faculty fellows from universities around the world will be invited to participate in the center’s research projects. Listed below are some of the center’s principal investigators.

  • Grant Duwe, PhD, Minnesota Department of Corrections
  • Andrew Johnson, PhD, School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Metropolitan State University in St. Paul Minnesota
  • Michael Hallett, PhD, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, University of North Florida
  • Sung Joon Jang, PhD, Research Professor of Criminology and co-director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Family & Adolescent Delinquency, Baylor University
  • Eric Rassbach, JD, Director Hugh and Hazel Darling Religious Liberty Clinic, Visiting Professor, Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law
  • Michael Helfand, PhD, JD, Vice Dean for Faculty and Research, Brenden Mann Foundation Chair in Law and Religion, Co-Director Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics, Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law
  • Cristina Gibson, PhD, Dean's Distinguished Professor of Management, Pepperdine University Graziadio Business School
  • Dyron Daughrity, PhD, Professor of Religion, Religion and Philosophy Division, Pepperdine University Seaver College
  • Elizabeth Mancuso, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Social Science Division, Pepperdine University Seaver College
  • Luisa Blanco, PhD, Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University School of Public Policy


Research Projects

Research conducted at the center will explore outcomes related to prison incarceration and other social and behavioral services. The center, which merges Pepperdine's faith-centered mission and its commitment to rigorous academic pursuits, seeks to examine critical questions to ultimately impact the common good and society at large.

  Matthew 25 Project: Safeguarding Religious Freedom in US Prisons: A Multisite Evaluation of Prison Seminaries

The objective of this project is twofold: 1) to gain a more detailed understanding of diverse practices concerning religious liberty inside multiple large and prominent correctional programs; and 2) to publish a report-card summary of best practices for use by stakeholders in developing and operating faith-based programs in US prisons, as informed by the Matthew 25 research team.  

Using archival and site-based research, this project explores operational practices at six United States prisons regarding concepts of religious liberty. The shift toward faith-based volunteerism as a “structural charity” in US correctional budgeting has promoted a veritable explosion of religious programming in US prisons, yet no systematic review regarding best practices in terms of safeguarding the religious liberties of prisoners has yet been conducted. The purpose of this project is to help identify risks and to provide resources for stakeholders outlining “best practices” for the establishment and operation of such programs. 

  Hard Pressed, but Not Crushed: Spiritual Practice Inside of Prison

This project will examine the Christian practices of prayer, Bible study, synchronized singing, and the impact of these practices on human flourishing. Researchers will collaborate with formerly-incarcerated “lifers” and current chaplains to conduct qualitative research over three years. The data will deepen our understanding of the power of spiritual practice in the midst of suffering. It will also inform policy on the role of spirituality inside correctional facilities, and the findings will be applicable to those practicing faith outside of prison.

Prisoners may know something about the power of Christian spiritual practice that is out of reach for many “free worlders.” Studying spiritual practice inside of prison could provide rich data that contributes to the spiritual lives of individuals and communities well beyond the walls of prisons.

  The Importance of Religious Faith for Correctional Leaders and People in Prison

This project would consist of, at a minimum, two studies that examine the importance of religious faith not only for correctional leadership but also for incarcerated people in prison. Both studies would analyze novel datasets that significantly advance what is known about the influence of religious faith for the individuals in prison and those responsible for operating correctional systems. Due to the notable contribution that each study would make to the literature, it is anticipated that both studies will be published in peer-reviewed academic journals.