Adam Lyons - Postdoctoral Fellow, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University
Monday, April 23, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Room 241, Rosenkranz Hall
115 Prospect AvenueNew Haven, CT 06511
There are more prison chaplains in the Japanese correctional system than there are in American prisons–despite the fact that Japan has only a fraction of the U.S. prison population. Why does Japan have so many prison chaplains and what do they do? Based on over two years of fieldwork with Japanese prison chaplains from Buddhist, Shinto, and other sects, Lyons argues that the prison chaplaincy has developed as one face of religious work for the public benefit. The chaplaincy is charged with offering a depoliticized form of religious education tailored to the goals of the host institution. However, the way their official responsibilities are structured leaves many chaplains in an untenable position between religious institutions, the Corrections Office, and the clients they feel morally obligated to help. What should a death row chaplain do if he believes his client is innocent? In this talk, Lyons examines the history and present conditions of the chaplaincy to explain why many chaplains consider their appointment to the prison service a case of “bad karma.”
Lyons is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard University Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. He obtained a PhD in Religion from Harvard University in 2017. His primary research areas are Japanese religions and society in the modern and contemporary period, religion and social welfare work, new religions, and the death penalty.