NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 27, 2006

Religion can reduce the incidence of antisocial behavior in prisons, making faith-based programs an attractive alternative to expensive correctional treatment, says the Washington Times.

According to a study of inmates at Mississippi State Penitentiary, "religiosity" -- believing in a higher power, attending worship services regularly and participating in faith-based prison programs -- is associated with fewer inmate arguments, and thereby the fights that typically follow, says the Journal of Scientific Study of Religion (JSSR).

According to researchers:

  • An estimated 74 percent of inmates who do not believe in a higher power engaged in at least one fight a month versus 53 percent of inmates who do believe.
  • Inmates who believe God's law determines right and wrong were 58 percent less likely to fight at least once a month.
  • Nearly 39 percent of the inmates surveyed said they attend prison religious services at least once a week, but more than 69 percent said they took part in a special one-day evangelical and entertainment event at the prison, known as Operation Starting Line.
  • Overall, 94 percent said they believed in a higher power, 77 percent said right or wrong should be based on God's law and 42 percent reported having a conversion experience in their lives.

Moreover, other states are following suit, says the Times:

  • Florida -- the only state with prisons devoted to faith-based guidelines -- is planning to open its third faith-based prison because of exemplary results; less discipline reports are filed, and if any are, they are of a nonviolent nature.
  • Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States, offers religious programs at the 67 jails and prisons it operates in 29 states.

Source: Joyce Howard Price, "Faith cuts inmate anti-social behavior, study finds," Washington Times, December 18, 2005; based upon: Kent R. Kerley et al., "Religiosity, Religious Participation, and Negative Prison Behaviors," Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 44, no. 4, December 2005.

For JSSR abstract:;jsessionid=15l4ex41e57e9.victoria


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