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Pew Forum on Religion: Religion in Prisons
Thinking About Corrections


"Religion in Prisons: A 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains", conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, was released on March 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.

More than seven-in-ten state prison chaplains say efforts by inmates to convert others are very or somethat 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 rehabiliation of inmates.

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

See "Religion in Prisons: A 50-State survey of Prison Chaplains", which covers:

  • Rehabilitation, re-entry and religion
  • Prevalance of religious extremism and the forms it takes
  • Frequency of religious switching and the groups growing most in numbers
  • Sizes of different faith groups among the prison population
  • Prison accommodation of religious beliefs and practices
  • Need for volunteers from particular faiths
  • What chaplains consider to be their central role
  • The religious backgrounds of prison chaplains


About the Survey

This survey was conducted between Sept. 21 and Dec. 23, 2011, among professional chaplains and religious services coordinators working in state prisons (both titles are used in state prisons, and they are treated as interchangeable in this report). Correctional authorities in all 50 states granted permission for the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life to contact state prison chaplains and request their voluntary participation in the survey.

For information concerning religion in corrections"on the NIC website, see Documents Related to 'Religion' at the NIC Information Center Library.


Posted Mon, May 14 2012 7:24 AM by Anonymous


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This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.