This unique volume brings together scholars from around the world to exam-
ine the contours of religion in prison life. Religion long has been a tool for
correctional treatment and inmate survival, but only since the 1980s have
social scientists studied the nature, extent, practice, and impact of faith and
faith-based prison programs. Although the concept of “jailhouse conversion”
is common in the cultural lexicon, most fail to understand the nuances of
how faith may work in prison contexts. This volume contains the most
contemporary and cutting-edge research on religion in prison life, which
includes data-driven (quantitative and qualitative), conceptual, and policy-
oriented papers. These chapters will allow readers to move beyond a strictly
emotional understanding of faith and toward a more scientific understanding
of how prisoners use faith in everyday life.
Although this work stands alone as the first major edited volume specific
to the study of religion in prison, it joins a literature that is increasingly well
established. In the past five years, there have been five books published that
focused, at least in part, on prisoners’ experiences with faith and faith-based
programs. Chief among those is Johnson’s (2012) comprehensive and timely
work, More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More.
This work is unparalleled in terms of the care taken in reviewing 273 scien-
tific studies of religion and crime/deviance/delinquency, a large percentage of
which involved prisoners. Johnson presents findings from this meta-analysis
in a dispassionate and policy-oriented manner. Although there are chapters
on religion in prison, the focus of the book is much broader.
Volume editor Kent Kerley’s (2014) Religious Faith in Correctional Contexts is
a data-driven monograph summarizing results from a representative sample
survey of 386 inmates, as well as in-depth interviews with 203 inmates, half-
way house residents, chaplains, and local parishioners. Although this work
includes key insights into the religious lives of inmates, the analysis is limited
to prisoners and halfway house residents in Alabama and Mississippi.