Thu Mar 22, 2012, 04:16 PM
rug (79,114 posts)
Religion in Prisons
A 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains
POLL March 22, 2012
•Rehabilitation, Re-entry and Religion
•Muslims, Protestants Seen as Growing Due to Switching
•Presence of Various Faith Groups
•Religious Accommodation Requests
•Need for Volunteers from Particular Faiths
•What Chaplains Consider Central to their Role
•Chaplains Themselves Largely Protestant, Evangelical
•About the Survey
•Roadmap to the Report
From the perspective of the nation’s professional prison chaplains, America’s state penitentiaries are a bustle of religious activity. More than seven-in-ten (73%) state prison chaplains say that efforts by inmates to proselytize or convert other inmates are either very common (31%) or somewhat common (43%). About three-quarters of the chaplains say that a lot (26%) or some (51%) religious switching occurs among inmates in the prisons where they work. Many chaplains report growth from religious switching in the numbers of Muslims and Protestant Christians, in particular.
Overwhelmingly, state prison chaplains consider religious counseling and other religion-based programming an important aspect of rehabilitating prisoners. Nearly three-quarters of the chaplains (73%), for example, say they consider access to religion-related programs in prison to be “absolutely critical” to successful rehabilitation of inmates. And 78% say they consider support from religious groups after inmates are released from prison to be absolutely critical to inmates’ successful rehabilitation and re-entry into society. Among chaplains working in prisons that have religion-related rehabilitation or re-entry programs, more than half (57%) say the quality of such programs has improved over the last three years and six-in-ten (61%) say participation in such programs has gone up.
At the same time, a sizable minority of chaplains say that religious extremism is either very common (12%) or somewhat common (29%) among inmates. Religious extremism is reported by the chaplains as especially common among Muslim inmates (including followers of the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America) and, to a substantial but lesser degree, among followers of pagan or earth-based religions such as Odinism and various forms of Wicca. (See Glossary.) An overwhelming majority of chaplains, however, report that religious extremism seldom poses a threat to the security of the facility in which they work, with only 4% of chaplains saying religious extremism among inmates “almost always” poses a threat to prison security and an additional 19% saying it “sometimes” poses a threat.
These are among the key findings of a survey of prison chaplains in all 50 states by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. The survey was conducted from Sept. 21 to Dec. 23, 2011, using Web and paper questionnaires. The Pew Forum attempted to contact all 1,474 professional chaplains working in state prisons across the country, and 730 chaplains returned completed questionnaires, a response rate of nearly 50%.
22 replies, 2930 views
Religion in Prisons (Original post)
Response to msongs (Reply #1)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 04:33 PM
SamG (535 posts)
4. captive audiences are only being offered
one or two options: sadly, prisons are not welcoming prosthelytizing atheists in, (if there is such an animal out there!)
But somehow, both fundamentalist Christianity and Islam are growing within our prison population.
Response to cbayer (Reply #11)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 06:48 PM
SamG (535 posts)
13. Eighty-four flavors of Christian and
10 instances out of 94 of Muslim or Jewish, six others, one of which is "no answer".
This means over 84% are Christians, less than 10% OTHER. NOT a word about atheism, unless I missed it.
Do we have any statistics about recidivism rates for Christians versus Muslims or Jews?
How much is all this captive audience religious indoctrination and "support or comforting" helping prisoners NOT re-offend once they are released?
Response to SamG (Reply #4)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 05:09 PM
Warpy (90,449 posts)
7. A few prisons have allowed Buddhists in to teach meditation
The Buddha himself was an atheist, so I guess that qualifies as atheists in prisons.
However, the one way to avoid a lot of the gang stuff in prison is to become ultra religious. Crazy works, too.
Response to Warpy (Reply #7)
Mon Mar 26, 2012, 11:43 PM
Manifestor_of_Light (20,745 posts)
22. Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three became a buddhist.
They were freed last year by new evidence. There was an interview with Damien in PARABOLA magazine a few years ago.I kept the issue; it was very interesting.
Response to cbayer (Reply #2)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 08:31 PM
2ndAmForComputers (3,527 posts)
17. Or providing a convenient "hey, look, I'm good now!" card that can bring many wordly benefits.
Edit: I guess you could say that's a kind of hope. Hoping to be able to get a job is no small hope.
Response to rug (Original post)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 05:13 PM
Jim__ (10,471 posts)
8. I'd much rather hear wht the prisoners have to say.
I have nothing against the chaplains. I just don't think they have a clue what's its like for the prisoners. This survey tells us what the chaplains think. I'm not sure how reflective that is of the reality.
Response to rug (Original post)
Fri Mar 23, 2012, 10:42 AM
jeepnstein (2,631 posts)
18. Prisons are a weird place.
It's possible, with all that time and isolation, for anything to morph into just another criminal enterprise. I've seen religious groups serve as nothing more than a thinly veiled gang, and I've seen religious groups take a deeply spiritual and genuine approach to their faiths. And of course everything in between.
When you consider what really landed most of those folks in prison; addictive personality, inability to cope with society's norms, and quite often some serious psychological problems, it's no wonder you see some extremism. Some times the change they experience in the joint is positive, some times not so much. Prison is not a normal kind of place by any measure.
Oh, and I have a friend who did time in the federal corrections system for a variety of crimes and he told me one man changed his life in a way he never anticipated. He went to an Easter service as a way to break the monotony and heard what he considered to be the sermon of a lifetime. The sermon was delivered by a fellow inmate. Anyone remember Jim Baker? Seems once the money and fame were stripped away he became extremely effective. My friend is still a bit of a bucket head but has managed to stay out of jail. He gives the words Baker spoke that morning much of the credit for his change.
Response to jeepnstein (Reply #18)
Fri Mar 23, 2012, 10:56 AM
cbayer (146,218 posts)
19. Jim Baker! Now there's a blast from the past.
You are correct about substance abuse being one of the primary reasons people land in jail. Like it or not, the "higher power" 12 step program is by far the most effective approach to addictive disorders. And being able to stick with that program is one of the only things correlated with ongoing recovery.
So a lot of people turn to religion as part of their recovery.
Response to dmallind (Reply #20)
Fri Mar 23, 2012, 11:40 AM
cbayer (146,218 posts)
21. HAMS? You must be joking. And this "study" is absolutely worthless.
Let's look at a better document:
The fact is that recidivism for addictive disorders is extraordinarily high no matter what you do. There is very little that correlates with success, but time in residential treatment (and that would include prison) and participation in peer based support groups are about the only things that have been shown to improve abstinence rates. There are non-religious alternatives to AA that are probably equally effective if they follow the same principals.
And I don't think Scientific American is an AA propaganda mouthpiece.