Study finds social support key

May 01, 2009

It is not uncommon for prison inmates to experience religious conversions. Now a new University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study, out in the April issue of the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, suggests that inmates who have positive social support networks are more likely to maintain their religious conversions.

UAB researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 63 inmates, all of whom were actively involved in at least one religious program at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. UAB Assistant Professor of Justice Sciences Kent R. Kerley, Ph.D., was the study's principal investigator. UAB Associate Professor of Justice Sciences J. Heith Copes, Ph.D., co-authored the article. Seventy-eight percent of those interviewed were African-Americans and 22 percent were white. The participants' average prison sentence was 27 years. Researchers asked inmates about their faith and how religion affected their self-image and ability to cope with prison life.

The study found that the strategies inmates used to maintain their religious conversions included developing close bonds with mentors, chaplains, religious family members and other religious inmates; avoiding people who are negative influences; attending religious activities at the prison; and sharing their faith with others. In addition, the overwhelming majority of those interviewed said they spent time in daily prayer and meditation.

The study suggests that prison administrators should consider the potential for religious programs to help inmates adjust to life. In addition, chaplains could consider focusing not solely on the conversion experience, but also on providing social support networks for religious inmates.

But the researchers stressed that evidence also suggests that secular programs that focus on literacy, the GED and college training, life skills or substance abuse treatment may also be effective. Future research might determine if inmates who participate in educational or vocational programs feel similarly about making positive connections with their teachers and program sponsors, the UAB researchers said.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham (news : web)

Explore further: Homeless, mentally ill women face vicious cycle in India

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study says few prisoners contract HIV

Apr 21, 2006

A study refutes the widely held perception that blames U.S. prisons for the spread of the AIDS epidemic, saying very few prisoners acquire the virus.

Study Looks at Social Structure of Prison Communities

Dec 14, 2007

In community settings, there’s always at least one person or perhaps a group of individuals who are most highly respected. Prison systems are no different; one’s social status results from interpersonal dynamics. To better ...

Palin, religion, the 2008 election

Sep 09, 2008

Although Sarah Palin's entry into the 2008 presidential race has energized the religious right within the Republican Party, don't expect religion to be a major issue in this year's election, says University of Alabama at ...

Why criminals cannot say 'no'

May 09, 2008

A study integrating theories from criminology and psychology has provided an in-depth explanation for the link between self-control and why people get into crime.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.