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When author and journalist Daniel Bergner set out to write about Louisiana's Angola State Prison, he was looking for some signs of God's presence. Of the roughly five thousand inmates in this maximum security facility, about 80 percent will never leave. Bergner says he saw Angola as "the ultimate proving ground of the human spirit."

Did he find what he was looking for? Not as much as he had hoped. But spending a year at the prison did make him think more deeply about the public's attitude toward what happens in prisons, especially those as brutal as Angola. Bergner comments, "There is no religious or humanistic tradition that says, write people off.... Prisons are for punishment, and that can't be diminished. But they just have to be about transformation, too."

Unmasking stereotypes ...
February 1, 1999

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