Women’s engagement with humanist, spiritual and religious meaning-making in prison: A longitudinal study of its impact on recidivism

Jeff Duncan, Richard Stansfield, Steve Hall, Tom O’Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study explores the long-term impact on recidivism of the engagement of over 300 women prisoners with humanist, spiritual and religious ways of making meaning during their incarceration. Prison chaplains and community volunteers in the Oregon Department of Corrections offered a diverse range of humanist, spiritual and religious (HSR) events to the women, and 95% of them voluntarily engaged at varied levels with an average participation rate of about 3 h per month. The women who attended most often were motivated to do so by intrinsic or meaning-driven reasons and were more likely to have listened to a religious program on radio or TV in the six months before their incarceration. Controlling for ethnicity, risk of recidivism, participation in other programs (education, substance use, cognitive and work), length of time incarcerated, and infractions during incarceration we found an overall significantly positive impact of HSR involvement on recidivism during the first year after release and over a 13-year follow-up period post prison. The impact was concentrated among the 20% of women who attended most frequently (4 or more hours per month) indicating a dosage and consistency of practice effect. Prison chaplains and volunteers make a valuable contribution to the lives of women in prison and to the correctional system; the pro-social support/modeling and diverse help with meaning-making they offer in prison has a positive influence on the women’s journey of desistance in the community after prison.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number171
JournalReligions
Volume9
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies

Keywords

  • Chaplain
  • Desistance
  • Humanism
  • Meaning
  • Prison
  • Recidivism
  • Religion
  • Spirituality
  • Volunteer
  • Women

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