Hellfire Does Not Deter Crime – Prisoner Survey on Religion (2021)

Victorian prison chapel
Victorial-era prison chapel

In spring and summer 2021, the Percy Foundation distributed questionnaires on religious beliefs and practice to the prisoners enrolled in its prison book program. A total of 526 questionnaires were returned to us. Our inquiry aimed to ascertain whether strong religiosity either in childhood upbringing or as adults prior to incarceration acts as a deterrent or risk factor in criminal propensity. Although previous scholarship generally shows that the religiously observant are more law-abiding than those with no or weak religious commitment (see Adamczyk, Freilich, & Kim 2017 for the most recent systematic review), few studies have examined this question with specific regard to those convicted for crimes of a sexual nature that carry particularly strong moral stigma in many world religions. The well-publicized scandals involving sex crimes by members of Catholic religious orders, as well as less well-known reports of widespread sexual abuse within ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities (Lusky-Weisrose, Marmor, & Tener 2021), Mennonite communities, and some evangelical churches (see Rashid & Barron 2019 for yet other cases) raise the question whether conservative belief traditions with strong sexual taboos may create a form of perverse implantation in some individuals. Psychoanalytic assumptions might suggest the influence of highly repressed sexuality that erupts into counter-normative or antinomian channels.

An Australian study of 111 incarcerated non-clerical sex offenders in Queensland (Eshuys & Smallbone 2006) suggested that the prisoners who reported both religious upbringing as children and continuing religiosity as adults had the most victims and the youngest victims. A recent study of 227 gay men found that those who were religiously affiliated were six times more likely to exhibit the symptoms of Compulsive Sexual Behavior (Gleason, Finotelli, et al. 2021). Other studies have suggested that pornography consumption or Google searches for male enhancement products (Perry & Whitehead 2021) are highest in parts of the U.S. with the largest populations of the religiously devout, suggesting that religiosity contributes to strong sexual desires, patriarchal attitudes, and feelings of male inadequacy, all of which may also be correlated with higher rates of sex offending.

Our data collection effort is unique in involving a larger sample of sex offenders (325), whose parameters can be compared with a non-sex offender control group of male prisoners (201), as well as readily available demographic data about religious practice and affiliation in the U.S. male population as a whole. Following best practices in this area of research, our survey instrument evaluated religious devotion through multiple measures: (1) religious activity, i.e. attendance of worship services, study of scripture, (2) religious belief, i.e. self-evaluated importance of religion in one’s life and theological beliefs, (3) prayer, and (4) belief tradition or denomination.

On the whole, our results found that sex offenders were slightly more religious than the criminal population as a whole, but less religious than men in the general U.S. population. However, the differences were less than one might assume: religious upbringing, belief, and practice were common among all criminal groups and did not appear to act as effective deterrents. For example, 69.5% of sex offenders and 62.7% of non-sex criminals in our survey said religious faith was “somewhat or very important” to them as adults prior to their incarceration, compared to 73% of adult males in the general U.S. population according to the 2014 Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey (of 17,514 men); however, the difference was greater among those rating it “very important” (47% of the general population vs. 24.3% of sex offenders, 18.4% of other offenders). 36.9% of sex offenders and 37.3% of non-sex criminals reported never attending religious worship services as adults prior to their incarceration; for comparison, 35% of adult men in the general U.S. population reported “seldom or never” attending services. At the other end of the scale, 14.2% of sex offenders and 9% of non-sex criminals reported weekly attendance of services, compared to 31% of the overall adult male population. The general picture that emerges from the data is that male criminals are not irreligious in belief, but are less disciplined and devoted in their religious practice.

One area where criminals are notably stronger in religious belief than the general adult male population is that they are more likely to believe in Hell. According to the Pew survey, 56% of adult male Americans believe in Hell, whereas 73% of non-sex offending criminals said they believed in Hell prior to their incarceration; at 59%, the figure for sex offenders was much closer to the norm. Moreover, they report having internalized that belief as children: 78% of non-sex criminals and 72% of sex offenders affirmed that as children, they believed in “Hell as a place of torment for unrepentant sinners.” It is striking that such a strong belief in eternal punishment did not deter these individuals from committing serious criminal acts; this in turn raises questions about the whole doctrine of rational deterrence upon which the carceral system has been erected. It is interesting to note that although they mostly believe in Hell, only 31% of non-sex criminals and 19% of sex criminals believe that they personally are “at serious risk of going to Hell.” This may be related to the finding that two-thirds of both groups believed in “a loving God who forgives most sinners, even if they sometimes do very bad things.” This more liberal Christian doctrine provides them an out.

An illuminating qualitative study of 48 active, non-incarcerated African-American “street offenders” in Atlanta (drug dealers, carjackers, muggers, burglars) found them willing “to exploit the absolvitory tenets of religious doctrine” to justify continuing their criminal lifestyle without serious fear of negative consequences in the afterlife, despite a belief in the likelihood of early death (Topalli, Brezina, & Bernhardt 2013). Many believed that it was God’s protection that kept them alive as long as they were in their very dangerous lifestyle in a notoriously violent part of the city. Although 45 of the 48 claimed to be religious believers, the researchers often encountered statements like the following from an 18-year old robber: “I didn’t really go to church enough to know all the details, just the important shit, like Jesus forgives you for all your bad shit if you donate some money to the church, or pray and say you’re sorry.” Others reasoned that Hell was the present life on Earth and death brought deliverance to a better place, or that Hell was only for people they regarded as worse than themselves: “the murderers, rapists, child molesters. People with no kind of morals or values about themselves or about other people” in the words of a 40-year old transsexual con artist. Some saw their criminality as part of God’s plan, like the 25-year-old Cool: “If you doing some wrong to another bad person, like if I go to rob a dope dealer or a molester or something, then it don’t count against me because it’s like I’m giving punishment to them for Jesus. That’s God’s will. Oh you molested some kids? Well now I’m [God] sending Cool over to your house to get your ass.”

Another interesting result is that prisoners are less inclined to accept the theory of evolution than the general population. The Baylor Religion Survey Wave 2 (2007) involved a nationwide sample of 756 males, of whom 46.1% agreed with the theory of evolution (39.6% disagreed, 14.2% were unsure). In our survey, only 23% of the non-sex offender group and 33% of the sex offender group supported evolutionary theory (vs. 50% and 44% respectively adopting a creationist view, the rest unsure). One might attribute this result to differences in educational level between incarcerated and non-incarcerated populations, but the prisoners enrolled in the Percy Foundation’s book program (which includes many books of an advanced academic nature) are more literate and better educated than most incarcerated persons, and probably approach or exceed the general population in these terms. How are we therefore to understand this result? It cannot necessarily be attributed to prisoners accepting scriptural authority to a greater degree than men generally: if anything, criminals are less likely to accept Scripture as the direct inspiration of God (49% of believing non-sex offenders, 39% of believing sex offenders, compared to 52% of adult males generally according to the Pew Forum) and more likely to view them as men’s interpretation of God’s word. What this simultaneous suspicion of both Scripture and scientific theory suggests is a greater distrust of all forms of social and intellectual authority.

It may be unsurprising that sex offenders were twice as likely to report struggling with their sexuality due to their faith or their parents’ faith: 44.9% struggled somewhat or very much as adolescents (compared to 21.2% of non-sex offenders), and 40.7% as adults (compared to 20.6% of non-sex offenders); these figures need to be contextualized within the fact that close to one third of our sample reported that religion was not at all important to them either as children or adults, so among those sex offenders for whom religion was important, most struggled. This may in part be due to a higher proportion of gay and bi-sexual identified individuals among the sex offender group in our sample; the peak age of attraction (whether to children, adolescents, or adults) seems to have made little difference in predicting such struggles. The difference does not appear to be a result of more conservative sexual attitudes on the part of their parents: 53.5% of non-sex offenders and 46.1% of sex offenders report that religion played no role in their parents’ view of sexual morality, a small but statistically insignificant difference. The two groups also revealed no statistically significant difference in religious attendance, family prayer, or parental attention to reading scripture while they were growing up.

The experience of being arrested and incarcerated did bring many prisoners back to religion: 56% of non-sex offenders and 50% of sex offenders now consider themselves “born again,” as compared to 32.3% of the general adult male population (based on a sample of 1,764 men in the General Social Survey [2014]). 54.2% of incarcerated non-sex offenders and 56.9% of sex offenders now report that religious faith is very important to them, compared to only 18.4% and 24.3% prior to their imprisonment. These numbers exceed the 47% of males in the general population who say so in the Pew Forum survey. 68.5% of non-sex offenders and 70.6% of sex offenders say that their religious faith has grown stronger or that they have converted to a new religion since their imprisonment. It is evident that religion gives them some comfort amid the misery and hopelessness that many now face. It is for this reason that the Percy Foundation does supply donated religious literature to inmates, even though our organization is completely secular and few of us are religious. The qualitative study of twelve Christian sex offenders incarcerated in the U.K. (Winder, Blagden, & Lievesley 2018) revealed several benefits of religious re-engagement while in prison, including helping inmates cope by giving them a non-judgmental environment, helping them envision a more altruistic and socially responsible life, and providing therapeutic support mechanisms. However, the authors of that study also expressed concern that non-acceptance of sex offenders by religious communities post-release threatened to erase that progress.

One of this study’s goals was to determine whether certain types of religious faith traditions were more or less likely to generate criminality. Prisoners were accordingly asked to designate the particular religious denomination in which they were brought up as children. For the most part, our sample corresponded closely with the overall distribution of religious affiliations in the U.S. population, except that fewer of our sample reported no family religious affiliation (12.2%) than do adults in the U.S. population overall (22.8% according to the Pew Forum survey). In other words, growing up with no nominal religion in the family does not seem to produce more criminality, but the opposite. There was little difference in denominational background between non-sex offenders and sex offenders, with two modest exceptions: sex offenders were more likely to grow up in Catholic families (23.1%) than non-sex criminals (14.4%), compared to 20.8% of the U.S. population overall. Among Protestants, sex offenders were slightly more likely to have grown up in major mainline denominations (Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Church of Christ) than non-sex criminals: 29.6% vs. 16.4% of Protestants in each group. However, both types of criminals were most likely to have grown up in more conservative faith traditions (Baptist, Pentecostal, Adventist, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witness): 60.3% for sex offenders, 77.9% for non-sex criminals. Whether this difference is due to class-based or racial differences in the composition of the two groups remains to be explored. Another fruitful area for future study would be the extent to which theological traditions positing divine predestination and being “elect” from birth provide an excuse for the criminally inclined to believe they will not face eternal damnation regardless of their behavior.

An area of perennial anxiety to some parents is the thought of sex offenders being active within their churches to gain access to children. Among those sex offenders who were religious, 16.8% reported frequently volunteering in their church prior to their arrest, and another 27.4% said they sometimes did so (a total of 44.2%). This does exceed the percentage of common criminals who volunteered in church (38.9%), but is not statistically different from the percentage of American men who reported doing so within the last twelve months (46.2% according to the 2006 Faith Matters Survey of 775 U.S. adult males). Sex offenders are present in churches just as they are in every other facet of American life, but there is little evidence that they disproportionately target churches to obtain easy access to victims.


References

Adamczyk, A., Freilich, J. D., & Kim, C. “Religion and Crime: A Systematic Review and Assessment of Next Steps.” Sociology of Religion 78.2 (2017) 192-232. https://doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srx012

Eshuys, D., & Smallbone, S. “Religious Affiliations Among Adult Sexual Offenders.” Sex Abuse 18 (2006) 279-88. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11194-006-9020-5

Gleason, N., Finotelli, I., et al. “Estimated Prevalence and Demographic Correlates of Compulsive Sexual Behavior Among Gay Men in the United States.” Journal of Sexual Medicine 18.9 (2021) 1545-54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2021.07.003

Lusky-Weisrose, E., Marmor, A., & Tener, D. “Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community: A Literature Review.” Trauma, Violence & Abuse 22.5 (2021) 1086-1103. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838020906548

Perry, S. L., & Whitehead, A. L. “Linking Evangelical Subculture and Phallically Insecure Masculinity Using Google Searches for Male Enhancement .” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 60.2 (2021) 442-53. https://doi.org/10.1111/jssr.12717

Rashid, F., & Barron, I. “Why the Focus of Clerical Child Sexual Abuse has Largely Remained on the Catholic Church amongst Other Non-Catholic Christian Denominations and Religions.” Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 28.5 (2019) 564-85. https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2018.1563261

Topalli, V., Brezina, T., & Bernhardt, M. “With God on my Side: The Paradoxical Relationship Between Religious Belief and Criminality among Hardcore Street Offenders.” Theoretical Criminology 17.1 (2013) 49-69. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362480612463114

Winder, B., Blagden, N., & Lievesley, R. “’Because You’ve Got Faith It Doesn’t Mean That You’ve Got Wings on Your Back’: A Qualitative Analysis of the Accounts of Christian Prisoners Serving Time for a Sexual Offense.” Journal of Sexual Aggression 24.2 (2018) 239-55. https://doi.org/10.1080/13552600.2018.1504553


Breakdown of Results by Question.

Section 1. Religious Upbringing.

Family attendance of religious services when a child:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never 30a

58a

88

14.9%

17.8%

16.7%

Occasionally – 73a

89b

162

36.3%

27.4%

30.8%

Often – 36a

54a

90

17.9%

16.6%

17.1%

Weekly or more – 62a

124a

186

30.8%

38.2%

35.4%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

We do have some good comparative evidence for attendance of religious services in the U.S. population at large by families with children. The Baylor Religion Survey (2005) asked a random sample of 1704 adults (both male and female) how often they attended religious services at age 12: 65.3% said weekly or more, 13.2% said at least monthly (equivalent to our category of “Often”), 15.2% said several times a year or less (equivalent to our category of “Occasionally”), and only 6.2% never.

Family prayer at meals while a child:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never – 90a

152a

242

44.8%

46.8%

46.0%

Sometimes – 56a

85a

141

27.9%

26.2%

26.8%

Frequently – 18a

36a

54

9.0%

11.1%

10.3%

Every day – 37a

52a

89

18.4%

16.0%

16.9%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Parental reading of scriptures while a child:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never – 86a

142a

228

43.4%

44.0%

43.8%

Sometimes – 55a

80a

135

27.8%

24.8%

25.9%

Frequently – 31a

60a

91

15.7%

18.6%

17.5%

Every day – 26a

41a

67

13.1%

12.7%

12.9%

198

323

521

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Personal prayer as a child:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never – 47a

90a

137

23.4%

27.7%

26.0%

Sometimes – 114a

139b

253

56.7%

42.8%

48.1%

Frequently – 23a

59b

82

11.4%

18.2%

15.6%

Every day – 17a

37a

54

8.5%

11.4%

10.3%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Importance of religious faith as a child:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Not at all – 63a

103a

166

31.3%

31.7%

31.6%

Somewhat – 95a

126a

221

47.3%

38.8%

42.0%

Very much – 43a

96b

139

21.4%

29.5%

26.4%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Did religion influence parental attitudes toward sexual morality?

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Not at all – 106a

149a

255

53.5%

46.1%

48.9%

Somewhat – 44a

86a

130

22.2%

26.6%

25.0%

Very much – 48a

88a

136

24.2%

27.2%

26.1%

198

323

521

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Did you struggle with sexuality as an adolescent because of your or your parents’ faith?

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Not at all – 156a

178b

334

78.8%

55.1%

64.1%

Somewhat – 16a

70b

86

8.1%

21.7%

16.5%

Very much – 26a

75b

101

13.1%

23.2%

19.4%

198

323

521

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Loss of faith:

Among survey participants who say they lost their faith, the median age of doing so was 13.0 for sex offenders, 11.6 for non-sex offenders.


Section 2. Religious Beliefs as Adults Prior to Arrest.

Importance of religious faith:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Not at all – 75a

99a

174

37.3%

30.5%

33.1%

Somewhat – 89a

147a

236

44.3%

45.2%

44.9%

Very much – 37a

79a

116

18.4%

24.3%

22.1%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

The Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study (2014) of 17,514 U.S. adult men suggests that religion is more important for the general population: 47% say religion is “very important in their lives,” 26% “somewhat important,” 13% “not too important,” and 14% “not at all important.”

Are sacred scriptures “words directly inspired by God”?

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No, men’s interpretation – 64a

156b

220

32.3%

48.1%

42.1%

Yes, inspired by God – 96a

127b

223

48.5%

39.2%

42.7%

Not sure – 38a

41b

79

19.2%

12.7%

15.1%

198

324

522

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

The Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study asked a similar question, but with differently worded responses: 27% of men believe Scripture is the “Word of God” and should be interpreted literally, 25% believe it is the Word of God, but not always literal, 38% believe it is not the Word of God, but a compilation of legends, history, and moral wisdom, and 9% are unsure.

Belief in evolution vs. Divine Creation of mankind:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Accept Darwin’s theory – 46a

105b

151

23.1%

32.4%

28.9%

Believe Biblical Creation – 100a

143a

243

50.3%

44.1%

46.5%

Not sure – 53a

76a

129

26.6%

23.5%

24.7%

199

324

523

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

The Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 2 (2007) of 752 males in the general population showed 46.1% agreeing with the Darwinian theory of evolution, 39.6% disagreeing, and 14.2% undecided. It showed females more likely to believe in Biblical creationism.


Section 3. Religious Practice as Adults Prior to Arrest.

Attendance of religious services:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never – 75a

120a

195

37.3%

36.9%

37.1%

Occasionally – 89a

113b

202

44.3%

34.8%

38.4%

Often – 19a

46a

65

9.5%

14.2%

12.4%

Weekly – 18a

46a

64

9.0%

14.2%

12.2%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

The Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study of adult men in the general population shows 31% attending services weekly or more, 33% once or twice a month to a few times a year, and 35% seldom or never.

Frequency of prayer:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never – 66a

108a

174

32.8%

33.2%

33.1%

Sometimes – 85a

128a

213

42.3%

39.4%

40.5%

Frequently – 32a

59a

91

15.9%

18.2%

17.3%

Every day – 18a

30a

48

9.0%

9.2%

9.1%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

The Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study reveals that 46% of adult males in the general population claim to pray daily, 16% weekly, 7% monthly, 30% seldom or never.

Reading of Scripture and other religious literature:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never – 71a

136a

207

35.9%

42.0%

39.7%

Sometimes – 91a

129a

220

46.0%

39.8%

42.1%

Frequently – 26a

42a

68

13.1%

13.0%

13.0%

Every day – 10a

17a

27

5.1%

5.2%

5.2%

198

324

522

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

According to the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study, 30% of adult men read Scripture at least once a week (comparable to our categories of Frequently and Every Day), 10% once or twice a month, 9% several times a year, 50% seldom or never. It should be noted that participants in a prison book program are disposed to be readers, so the lower figure in the “Never” category may reflect less inclination to reading on the part of the general public. More significant are the lower figures for the Frequently and Every Day categories.

Willingness to volunteer in religious settings:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Never – 121a

179a

300

61.1%

55.8%

57.8%

Sometimes – 61a

88a

149

30.8%

27.4%

28.7%

Frequently – 16a

54b

70

8.1%

16.8%

13.5%

198

321

519

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

According to the Faith Matters Survey (2006), of 775 adult males, 46.2% said they had volunteered for their church or religious group at least once in the last twelve months.

This comes very close to the 44.2% figure for sex offenders in the Sometimes and Frequently categories.


Section 4. Religious Belief While Incarcerated.

Importance of religious faith now:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Not at all – 34a

64a

98

16.9%

19.7%

18.6%

Somewhat – 58a

76a

134

28.9%

23.4%

25.5%

Very much – 109a

185a

294

54.2%

56.9%

55.9%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

As noted before, the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study (2014) gives us information about adult men in the general population: 47% say religion is “very important in their lives,” 26% “somewhat important,” 13% “not too important,” and 14% “not at all important.” It therefore appears that an even higher percentage of prisoners, once incarcerated, see religion as playing a very important role in their lives.

Identify as “Born Again”:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No – 90a

163a

253

45.0%

50.2%

48.2%

Yes – 110a

162a

272

55.0%

49.8%

51.8%

200

325

525

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

The General Social Survey (2014) posed this question to 1764 adult males, of whom 32.3% reported a “born again” experience, 66.0% not, the rest unsure or not answering.

Change in religious faith since incarceration:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No change – 40a

60a

100

20.3%

18.8%

19.3%

Grown weaker – 22a

34a

56

11.2%

10.6%

10.8%

Grown stronger – 82a

129a

211

41.6%

40.3%

40.8%

Converted to new religion – 53a

97a

150

26.9%

30.3%

29.0%

197

320

517

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Belief that faith will make oneself a better person:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No – 35a

67a

102

18.0%

21.5%

20.2%

Yes – 159a

245a

404

82.0%

78.5%

79.8%

194

312

506

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%


Section 5. Beliefs About Eternal Punishment in the Afterlife.

Belief in Hell as a child:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No – 43a

90a

133

21.5%

27.7%

25.3%

Yes – 157a

235a

392

78.5%

72.3%

What this simultaneous suspicion of both Scripture and scientific theory suggests is a greater distrust of all forms of social and intellectual authority. – 74.7%

200

325

525

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Belief in Hell as an adult, prior to incarceration:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No – 54a

133b

187

27.1%

41.0%

35.8%

Yes – 145a

191b

336

72.9%

59.0%

64.2%

199

324

523

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

According to the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study, 56% of adult men in the general population believe in Hell, 36% don’t, and 8% are unsure.

Do you now believe you are at serious risk of going to Hell?

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No – 137a

261b

398

68.8%

80.6%

76.1%

Yes – 62a

63b

125

31.2%

19.4%

23.9%

199

324

523

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Belief in a “loving God who forgives most sinners, even if they do bad things”:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No – 63a

113a

176

31.7%

34.9%

33.7%

Yes – 136a

211a

347

68.3%

65.1%

66.3%

199

324

523

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%


Section 6. Denominational Information.

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

No religious upbringing – 24

40

64

11.9%

12.3%

12.2%

Raised Protestant – 125

183

308

62.2%

56.3%

58.6%

Raised Catholic – 29

75

104

14.4%

23.1%

19.8%

Raised Eastern Orthodox – 2

0

2

1.0%

0.0%

0.4%

Raised Mormon – 4

3

7

2.0%

0.9%

1.3%

Raised Jewish – 8

14

22

4.0%

4.3%

4.2%

Raised Buddhist – 0

2

2

0.0%

0.6%

0.4%

Raised Pagan / New Age – 2

3

5

1.0%

0.9%

1.0%

Other – 7

5

12

3.5%

1.5%

2.3%

201

325

526

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Among those who identified a Protestant upbringing, we found the following breakdown:

crime, SO’s vs. rest

Total

not SO

SO

Baptist – 70

82

152

57.4%

44.1%

49.4%

Pentecostal – 13

19

32

10.7%

10.2%

10.4%

Methodist – 6

16

22

4.9%

8.6%

7.1%

Presbyterian – 3

7

10

2.5%

3.8%

3.2%

Episcopalian – 2

3

5

1.6%

1.6%

1.6%

Lutheran – 3

16

19

2.5%

8.6%

6.2%

Church of Christ – 6

13

19

4.9%

7.0%

6.2%

Adventist – 2

5

7

1.6%

2.7%

2.3%

Christian Science – 3

2

5

2.5%

1.1%

1.6%

Jehovah’s Witness – 7

4

11

5.7%

2.2%

3.6%

Other / Multiple – 7

19

26

5.7%

10.2%

8.4%

122

186

308

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

According to the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study, 20.8% of the U.S. population identifies as Roman Catholic, 46.4% as some version of Protestant, 3.3% as some other type of Christian (e.g. Mormon, Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witness), 1.9% as Jewish, 4.1% other non-Christian, and 22.8% as unaffiliated. This study did not break down the Protestant denominations as precisely as we did, but into three categories: mainline Protestant (14.7%), evangelical Protestant (25.4%), and black Protestant (6.5%).


Survey Instrument

1. Please identify the offense category for which you are currently incarcerated.

1 = murder/manslaughter. 2 = sex offense. 3 = other violent crime. 4 = property crime. 5 = drugs or DWI. 6 = financial or white-collar crime. 7 = other (please specify).

2. What was the religious faith tradition of your family when you were growing up?

0 = none. 1 = Protestant. 2 = Roman Catholic. 3 = Eastern Orthodox. 4 = Mormon. 5 = Jewish. 6 = Islamic. 7 = Buddhist. 8 = Hindu / Sikh / Jain. 9 = Pagan / Wicca / New Age. 10 = Other – please specify on the answer form.

3. If you answered 1 to the last question, which denomination did your family choose?

1 = Baptist. 2 = Pentecostal. 3 = Methodist. 4 = Presbyterian. 5 = Episcopal / Anglican. 6 = Lutheran. 7 = Church of Christ. 8 = Seventh Day Adventist. 9 = Christian Science. 10 = Jehovah’s Witness. 11 = other, or a variety of different churches – please specify.

4. How often did you attend worship services with your family when you were a child?

0 = never. 1 = occasionally. 2 = often. 3 = at least once a week.

5. How important was your religious faith to you when you were a child?

0 = not at all. 1 = somewhat. 2 = very much.

6. Did your family pray together at meals when you were a child?

0 = No. 1 = sometimes. 2 = frequently. 3 = every day.

7. Did you personally pray when you were a child?

0 = No. 1 = sometimes. 2 = frequently. 3 = every day.

8. As an adult, prior to your incarceration, how often did you attend worship services?

0 = never. 1 = occasionally. 2 = often. 3 = at least once a week.

9. As an adult, prior to your incarceration, how important was your religious faith to you?

0 = not at all. 1 = somewhat. 2 = very much.

10. Did you personally pray as an adult, prior to your incarceration?

0 = No. 1 = sometimes. 2 = frequently. 3 = every day.

11. How important is religious faith to you now?

0 = not at all. 1 = somewhat. 2 = very much.

12. If you lost your religious faith at some point in your life, at what age did this happen?

For questions 13-17, 0 = No, and 1 = Yes.

13. Do you now consider yourself “Born Again” or otherwise converted in your faith?

14. As a child, did you believe in Hell as a place of torment for unrepentant sinners?

15. As an adult, prior to your incarceration, did you believe in Hell?

16. Do you now believe you are at serious risk of going to Hell?

17. As an adult, prior to your incarceration, did you believe in a loving God who forgives most sinners, even if they sometimes do very bad things?

18. Which position best describes your beliefs about the origin of mankind and animals?

1 = I believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution: animal species, including humans, developed from other species. 2 = I believe that every species was created in the form it now has by divine will. 3 = I am not sure.

19. If you were religious as an adult prior to your incarceration, did you believe that sacred scriptures are words directly inspired by God?

0 = No, I believe they were men’s interpretation of God’s will. 1 = Yes. 2 = I am not sure.

20. If you were religious as an adult prior to your incarceration, did you regularly read the Bible or other religious literature?

0 = Never. 1 = Sometimes. 2 = Frequently. 3 = Every day.

21. Did one of your parents regularly read the Bible or other religious literature?

0 = Never. 1 = Sometimes. 2 = Frequently. 3 = Every day.

22. Did religion influence your parents’ attitudes toward sexual morality?

0 = Not at all. 1 = Somewhat. 2 = Very much.

23. Did you struggle with your sexuality as an adolescent because of your or your parents’ religious faith?

0 = Not at all. 1 = Somewhat. 2 = Very much.

24. Did you struggle with your sexuality as an adult because of your religious faith?

0 = Not at all. 1 = Somewhat. 2 = Very much.

25. If you were religious as an adult prior to your incarceration, did you perform volunteer work on behalf of your church or faith community?

0 = Never. 1 = Sometimes. 2 = Frequently.

26. Has your religious faith changed since you were incarcerated?

0 = No change. 1 = It has grown weaker. 2 = It has grown stronger. 3 = I have converted to a completely new religion.

27. Do you believe that your current religious faith will make you a better person?

0 = No. 1 = Yes.

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