Prison religion

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Prison religion includes the religious beliefs and practices of prison inmates, usually stemming from or including concepts surrounding their imprisonment and accompanying lifestyle. [1] "Prison Ministry" is a larger concept, including the support of the spiritual and religious needs of prison guards and staff, whose work in an often demanding and brutal environment often creates a special need for pastoral care, similar to the care that is extended to the military, police officers and fire fighters.

Contents

History

The chapel of the Saint-Pelagie Prison, Paris Prison de Sainte-Pelagie - Chapelle.jpg
The chapel of the Saint-Pélagie Prison, Paris

Many religious groups often supply scripture and reading material, organize programs and worship, and train chaplains for work in prisons. Members of religious groups also engage in missionary activity, as there have been many instances of conversion throughout history. For instance, one of the earliest introductions of Islam into Eastern Europe was through the work of an early 11th-century Muslim prisoner who was captured by the Byzantines during their war against Muslims. The Muslim prisoner was brought into the territory of the Pechenegs, where he taught and converted individuals to Islam. [2]

In the United States, early colonists originated the concept of the penitentiary as a place where inmates would demonstrate their penance and remorse for their crimes through prayer and reflection. [3]

English prison chaplains also heard confessions from condemned prisoners, some of which were published – for example, the 18th century Ordinary of Newgate's Account . Such accounts presented the prisoners as coming to terms with their guilt and preparing for salvation.

Chaplains have worked with prisoners and prison staff for many years, even before formal legislation addressed the constitutional rights of inmates.

A 2005 Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion study suggests that the practice of religion significantly reduces the chance of prisoners to engage in verbal or physical altercations, and increases the likelihood of reform after completing prison sentence time. [4]

Reasons for religious involvement

Rabbi Philip R. Alstat, c. 1920 Rabbi Philip Alstat.jpg
Rabbi Philip R. Alstat, c. 1920

Prisoners may become involved with religion while incarcerated for a variety of reasons ranging from the materially pragmatic to the personal and spiritual. According to research conducted by sociologist Harry R. Dammer, some of the more prominent reasons include:

  1. Gaining direction and meaning in one's life.
  2. Improving one's concept of self.
  3. Promoting personal behavioral change.
  4. Gaining protection.
  5. Meeting other inmates.
  6. Meeting volunteers.
  7. Obtaining prison resources. [5] [6]

In 1970, Rabbi Philip R. Alstat, who served as Jewish chaplain for The Tombs, the Manhattan Detention Facility, for thirty years, and also served as the Secretary of the National Jewish Council of Prison Chaplains, shared his vision of prison ministry by saying, "My goals are the same as those of the prison authorities – to make better human beings. The only difference is that their means are discipline, security, and iron bars. Mine are the spiritual ministrations that operate with the mind and the heart." [7]

See also

Organizations

Related Research Articles

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Proselytism is the act or fact of religious conversion, or actions inviting this. The word proselytize is derived from the Greek language prefix προσ- and the verb ἔρχομαι in the form of προσήλυτος. Historically in the Koine Greek Septuagint and New Testament, the word proselyte denoted a Gentile who was considering conversion to Judaism. Though the word proselytism originally referred to Judaism, it now refers to the attempt of any religion or religious individuals to convert people to their beliefs, or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not. Proselytism is illegal in some countries. However, the right to convert to another religion and to manifest religion is enshrined in Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The term is generally understood as pejorative, by contrast with evangelism which is viewed as a term of approval. The World Council of Churches has indicated that, used pejoratively, proselytism refers to attempts at conversion by 'unjust means that violate the conscience of the human person', such as by coercion or bribery.

Islam and other religions

Over the centuries of Islamic history, Muslim rulers, Islamic scholars, and ordinary Muslims have held many different attitudes towards other religions. Attitudes have varied according to time, place and circumstance.

Trinidad and Tobago is a multi-religious nation. The largest religious groups are the Protestant Christians, Roman Catholic Christians, Hindus, and Muslims. Two Afro-Caribbean syncretic faiths, the Shouter or Spiritual Baptists and the Orisha faith are among the fastest growing religious groups. The fastest growing groups are a host of American-style Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches usually grouped as "Pentecostal" by most Trinidadians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also expanded its presence in the country since the late 1970s.

Hispanic and Latino American Muslims are Hispanic and Latino Americans who are of the Muslim faith. Hispanic and Latino Americans are an ethnolinguistic group of citizens of the United States with origins in the countries of Latin America or the Iberian peninsula. Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is a messenger of God. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, claimed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad. Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and the Quran in its Arabic to be the unaltered and final revelation of God. The Spaniards took the Roman Catholic faith to Latin America, and Roman Catholicism continues to be the largest, but not the only, religious denomination among most Hispanics. As for the Arabs, they took Islam to very few Latin American countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Colombia.

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Freedom of religion in Comoros is addressed in the constitution. However, there are limitations to this right in practice. While government authorities continued to prohibit Christians from proselytizing, there were no known instances where the local authorities and population restricted the right of Christians to practice other aspects of their faith. There was societal discrimination against non-Muslims in some sectors of society; however, accounts of social pressure were anecdotal. Proselytizing for any religion except Islam is illegal, and converts from Islam may be prosecuted under the law. However, such prosecutions are rare and have not resulted in any convictions in recent years. In the past, there were reports of family and community members excluding non-Muslim converts from schools or villages for "evangelizing Muslims".

The Constitution of Bahrain states that Islam is the official religion and that Shari'a is a principal source for legislation. Article 22 of the Constitution provides for freedom of conscience, the inviolability of worship, and the freedom to perform religious rites and hold religious parades and meetings, in accordance with the customs observed in the country; however, the Government placed some limitations on the exercise of this right.

The constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic guarantees freedom of religion. Syria has had two constitutions: one passed in 1973, and one in 2012 through the 2012 Syrian constitutional referendum. Opposition groups rejected the referendum; claiming that the vote was rigged.

Conversion to Islam in U.S. prisons refers to the contemporary high rate of conversion to Islam in American prisons, for which there are a number of factors. It is the fastest growing religion in U.S. prisons, where the population is 18 percent Muslim ; 80 percent of all prison religious conversion are to Islam.

Conversion to Islam in prisons refers to the modern phenomenon seen in the Western world of a statistically high incidence of incarcerated criminal non-Muslims converting to Islam while in the prison system. In the decade preceding 2014, the number of conversions to Islam among prisoners in Western countries outpaced all other religions, with the overall imprisoned Muslim population growing as a result.

Carol Vance Unit

Carol S. Vance Unit is a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison located in unincorporated central Fort Bend County, Texas. The unit, located in flatlands, is along U.S. Highway 90A, 4 miles (6.4 km) east of central Richmond. The facility is in proximity to Sugar Land, and it is about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Downtown Houston. The unit, with about 940 acres (380 ha) of land, is co-located with Jester I Unit, Jester III Unit, and Jester IV Unit. The unit consists of four steel buildings and two brick buildings. The prison is the home of the Prison Fellowship Academy Christian prison program. It is located on the Jester State Prison Farm property.

The InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) was an American Christian prison program operated by Prison Fellowship International (PFI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit established by Chuck Colson. It has since been replaced with the Prison Fellowship Academy.

Relationships for incarcerated individuals

Incarcerated individuals' relationships are the familial and romantic relations of individuals in prisons or jails. Although the population of incarcerated men and women continues to increase, there is little research on the effects of incarceration on inmates' social worlds. However, it has been demonstrated that inmate's relationships play a seminal role in their well-being both during and after incarceration, making such research important in improving their overall health, and lowering rates of recidivism.

References

  1. Religion in Prison Archived 2007-07-02 at the Wayback Machine . Harry R. Dammer, University of Scranton
  2. The preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith. Sir Thomas Walker Arnold, p. 335
  3. Clear, Todd R., Cole, George F., Reisig, Michael D. 2008. American Corrections. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.
  4. UAB Study Finds Religion Helps Reduce Negative Prison Behaviors. Gail Short, UAB.edu, citing: Kent R. Kerley, Todd L. Matthews and Troy C. Blanchard. (2005) "Religiosity, Religious Participation, and Negative Prison Behaviors." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion . 44(4):443–57
  5. Dammer, Harry R. 2006. "Religion in prison." In Encyclopedia of American Prisons, edited by Marylin D. McShane and Frank P. Williams III. New York: Garland Publishing.
  6. Dammer, Harry R. 1992. Piety in Prison. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms.
  7. Edward Fiske, New York Times, "City Prison Chaplains' Load is Heavy", Oct 26, 1970.