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Religions 2011, 2(4), 590-610; doi:10.3390/rel2040590
Article

The Sociology of Humanist, Spiritual, and Religious Practice in Prison: Supporting Responsivity and Desistance from Crime

1,*  and 2
1 Transforming Corrections, 1420 Court St. NE. Salem, Oregon 97301, USA 2 Oregon Department of Corrections, 2575 Center St. NE., Salem, OR 97301, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 20 September 2011 / Accepted: 24 October 2011 / Published: 2 November 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Studies in the Sociology of Religion)
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Abstract

This paper presents evidence for why Corrections should take the humanist, spiritual, and religious self-identities of people in prison seriously, and do all it can to foster and support those self-identities, or ways of establishing meaning in life. Humanist, spiritual, and religious (H/S/R) pathways to meaning can be an essential part of the evidence-based responsivity principle of effective correctional programming, and the desistance process for men and women involved in crime. This paper describes the sociology of the H/S/R involvement of 349 women and 3,009 men during the first year of their incarceration in the Oregon prison system. Ninety-five percent of the women and 71% of the men voluntarily attended at least one H/S/R event during their first year of prison. H/S/R events were mostly led by diverse religious and spiritual traditions, such as Native American, Protestant, Islamic, Wiccan, Jewish, Jehovah Witness, Latter-day Saints/Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Buddhist, and Catholic, but, increasingly, events are secular or humanist in context, such as education, yoga, life-skills development, non-violent communication, and transcendental meditation groups. The men and women in prison had much higher rates of H/S/R involvement than the general population in Oregon. Mirroring gender-specific patterns of H/S/R involvement found in the community, women in prison were much more likely to attend H/S/R events than men.
Keywords: prison; humanist; spiritual; religious; responsivity; desistance; gender; religion; corrections; treatment prison; humanist; spiritual; religious; responsivity; desistance; gender; religion; corrections; treatment
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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O’Connor, T.P.; Duncan, J.B. The Sociology of Humanist, Spiritual, and Religious Practice in Prison: Supporting Responsivity and Desistance from Crime. Religions 2011, 2, 590-610.

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