5 pages/≈2750 words
Religion & Theology
Research And Describe History And Risks Of Prison Religions (Essay Sample)
The Task Was About Writing An Essay On Religion In Prisons
The Sample Is About History Of Prison Religions, Factors Determining The Introduction Of Prison Religions And Risks Of Prison Religions.
Essay on Religion in Prison
Traditionally, religion played a crucial role in the life of people. In fact, religions accompanied people through their life, and often religion was beneficial for many people who searched for a new purpose in life. At the same time, in spite of the declared openness of numerous faiths to all potential adepts, there was a category of people that used to be excluded from religious communities. These people were inmates who lost only their freedom, but also missed the possibility to practice the religion they get used to. In such a situation, the position of prisoners was apparently irrelevant to the democratic principles and civil rights, and this is why, in the late 20th century, American inmates got the opportunity to practice religions in prison, and they could be even converted into some faith while being in prison.
On the one hand, such an innovation in the life of inmates could guarantee the protection of their civil rights. Moreover, while introducing religion in prisons, it was possible to presuppose that various faiths will help inmates, helping them finding the new way in their life, changing their behavior and lifestyle, their philosophy, and it could also contribute to their integration into the regular social life after the release from the prison. On the other hand, there were certain apprehensions concerning possible effects of the introduction of religions in jail because religion apparently had the uniting power and, therefore, could contribute to the formation of the new groups within prison population separated by their religious beliefs.
In general, the public did not perceive the introduction of religions in prison unanimously, and discussions between ordinary citizens as well as specialist concerning this innovation and its effects had a significant public resonance.
History of prison religions
The introduction of religion in prisons dates back to 1987 when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that inmates had the Constitutional right to protect their religious rights and beliefs and, therefore, gave them a legal opportunity for exercising their religions. In such a way, the decision of the Supreme Court was based on the Constitution of the US and it was justified because prisoners were deprived of their right to practice their religions in prison. It should be said that the decision was entirely logical since the freedom of religion should be viewed as any other Constitutional right of an individual and it would be apparently unjust to deprived inmates of this rights.
However, the introduction of religions in prison could be motivated not only legal but also psychological and social reasons that will be discussed later. At this necessary to underline that after the ruling of the Supreme Court of the US, inmates had started to use the opportunity to practice their religion while various religious organizations attempted to support their adepts in prisons and, what is more, they attempted to convert new adepts among prisoners. It should be said that among the major religious organizations that started their active work in prison were various Christian churches, which primarily represented Protestantism and Islamic groups that attempted to support their adepts and convert new ones.
Gradually, the number of adepts in prisons grew, and religious organizations started to develop their infrastructure in prisons making the religion more available to adepts. At the same time, it should be pointed out that a large number of inmates was converted into religions, while in the past their religious beliefs were uncertain (Levin, 127). In actuality, this trend remains quite strong, and religion is quite popular in prisons.
In response to the growing role of religions in prisons, the US President, Bill Clinton, signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, in 2000 (Stewart, 215). This Act contributed to the enlargement of religious practices of inmates in prison and protection of their rights to practice their religion even while they remained incarcerated. The Act protected religion rights of prisoners from oppression on the part of the administration of prisons. In such a way, religious rights of inmates were secured and enhanced that created the real background for the further development of religions in jail.
Factors determining the introduction of prison religions
The precise reason for the introduction of beliefs in prison was the violation of Constitutional rights of prisoners. Apparently, it was a purely formal reason for the introduction of religions since these rights were successfully violated for a considerable period. Nevertheless, the introduction of religions in prison after the decision of the Supreme Court marked the new stage in the development of prisons and, in a way, marked the introduction of the new strategy used the justice system to increase the effectiveness of the penitentiary system.
In fact, religions could contribute to the decrease in the risk of recidivism among offenders that were released from prison and who were adepts of some religion. Moreover, prison religions could change the lifestyle and behavior of inmates radically and make them more tolerant of the society they live in. The introduction of religion could also have an important ideological role since religions could be used as the ideological foundation for the radical change of the internal world of prisoners.
To put it more precisely, Christianity and Islam is the most widely spread religions in prisons, traditionally focused on the formation of the collective cultural and religious identity of their adepts, which promoted the idea of the obedience and non-violation of the established social and cultural norms. In other words, religions could produce a positive impact on inmates through the promotion of religious teachings which reject anti-social behavior and crimes and views them as sinful.
Consequently, it is possible to speak about the great spiritual power of religion that could contribute consistently to the correction of prisoners and, eventually, meet the goal the justice often failed to achieve – to correct inmates, change their behavior radically and help them get integrated into the normal social life. In this respect, religions could also be very useful because, as a rule, religious organizations supported their adepts even after the release that was very important for inmates, who are practically excluded from the society and normal social life, at the moment (Dammer, 249). At any rate, the effectiveness of the existing programs targeting at the integration of former prisoners into the normal social life is very low, while religious organization provides former prisoners with an opportunity to feel that they are members of a religious community, they are not alone. What is probably the most important about the introduction of religions in prisons is the fact that religions give prisoners a purpose in their life. Often, the loss of sense and purpose in life produce a negative impact on inmates and stimulate their antisocial behavior both in prison and in post-prison life. In such a situation, religions can make the life of prisoners more meaningful.
At the same time, being in prison, people often live in isolation. They may have difficulties in communication with other inmates, guards, etc. As a result, their psychological state is deteriorating for they feel their exclusiveness even in prison. In such a situation, religions offer them communication. In fact, it is not communication with a priest, for instance, but it is also the spiritual communication with God that may be very helpful, and it can assist to the better understanding of an inmate’s self (Brantingham and Brantingham, 156). Also, inmates can find new people whom they can communicate to and who share similar religious views, who have similar values, and philosophy.
Thus, the introduction of religions, along with legal and civil rights reasons, had also significant social and psychological reasons. On the one hand, religions could facilitate the life of an inmate in prison, and they could even change his/her personality and personal philosophy. On the other hand, religions could prepare inmates to the life in the society, by the socially accepted norms and rules and, what is more, religious organizations could support inmates even after the release from prison. In such a way, it is possible to estimate that, from the Functionalist point of view, religions in jail meet interests and needs of inmates as well as requirements of society at large that apparently justifies their further development.
Risks of prison religions
In spite of the possible benefits of the introduction of religions in prison and its positive effects, there is also some risks and threats that religions in prison could impose on inmates, prisons and the entire society. In the context of the recent growth of radicalism and terrorism, religions became a powerful tool used by various extremist movements to recruit ne...
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