Religion in Prisons: A 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains

The Pew Research Center has on 22 March 2012 released the result of a poll conducted among chaplains of prisons in all fifty states.

From the Preface:

Religion and religious people have always been a presence in American prisons. Indeed, some of the country’s first prisons were established at the urging of and with help from people of faith, who hoped that inmates could be reformed during their confinement.

Today, religious people still play an important role in the U.S. criminal justice system. Almost all of the nation’s more than 1,100 state and federal prisons have at least one paid chaplain or religious services coordinator, and collectively they employ about 1,700 professional chaplains.

From the Executive Summary:

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.

Read the entire report.