Cyrus O’Brien earned his Ph.D. from the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. His dissertation, “Faith in Imprisonment: Religion and the Development of Mass Incarceration in Florida,” places religion at the center of the study of mass incarceration in the United States. It traces religion’s changing roles as Florida’s prison system expanded from an archipelago of small labor camps at the outset of World War II into one of the world’s largest criminal justice systems. Blending archival research with deep ethnographic data and interviews, it demonstrates that religion was a key force in the adoption of parole, the embrace of halfway houses, and the privatization of prisons.
Dr. O’Brien taught the fall 2018 course “The Politics of Religion, Crime, and Punishment in the United States.”