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

Mar 22, 2012

Professional prison chaplains see America's state penitentiaries as places bustling with religious activity, ranging from efforts by inmates to proselytize or convert other inmates to religious switching by prisoners.

In the view of the chaplains, religious counseling and other religion-based programming play an important role in rehabilitating prisoners.

More than seven-in-ten state prison chaplains say efforts by inmates to convert others are very or somewhat common. About three-quarters of them report that a lot or some religious switching occurs among inmates, and they note growth in the numbers of Muslims and Protestant Christians in particular as a result of this switching. Nearly three-quarters of the chaplains surveyed say they consider access to religion-related programs in prison to be "absolutely critical" to successful rehabilitation of inmates.

A sizable minority of chaplains say that religious extremism is either very or somewhat common among inmates, but an overwhelming majority report that religious extremism seldom poses a threat to the security of the facility in which they work.

Read the full report, Religion in Prisons, on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's Web site.

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