Moral Communities and Jailhouse Religion: Religiosity and Prison Misconduct

Moral Communities and Jailhouse Religion: Religiosity and Prison Misconduct

Moral Communities and Jailhouse Religion: Religiosity and Prison Misconduct

Moral Communities and Jailhouse Religion: Religiosity and Prison Misconduct

Synopsis

Meade examines the relationship between religiosity and inmate misconduct. The most important aspect of his work is an attempt to resolve unanswered questions in the existing research about the religiosity-inmate misconduct relationship using a national sample of inmates and rigorous statistical techniques. His basic thesis is that the mixed findings across studies may be attributed to issues concerning selection bias and/or contextual differences in religiosity across facilities. The findings from the studies indicate that selection bias could result in an underestimation of the magnitude of the religiosity-misconduct relationship, but the results fail to support the impact of contextual religiosity effects on misconduct.

Excerpt

“The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.” Psalm 146:7

“Remember those who are in prison.” Hebrews 13:3

Religion and religiosity have been largely neglected in criminological research. They have played virtually no role in theoretical criminology, and rarely have been considered as a variable in applied research (Day & Laufer 1987; Johnson 2011; Stark & Bainbridge 1997). Yet, sociological research indicates that religion is important for virtually every American. Almost 90 percent of Americans report believing in God or a higher power (Ebaugh 2000; Greeley & Hout 1999; Smith et al. 2011). Findings from the 2010 General Social Survey revealed almost 60 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “I know God exists and I have no doubts about it.” Almost one-third of respondents expressed belief in God or a higher power with some doubts, but only three percent expressed outright disbelief (Smith et al. 2011). In addition, findings reported from the Faith Matters Survey revealed that 83 percent of Americans reported belonging to a religious group, 40 percent attended services weekly, and 60 percent prayed weekly (Putnam & Campbell 2010). The few scholars who have focused on religion and religiosity in criminology have referred to it as “the forgotten factor” or the “last acceptable prejudice” (see, e.g., Larson & Johnson 1998; Johnson 2011).

Research examining religion in the prison system is even scarcer. The paucity of studies of religion and religiosity in the . . .

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