Prisoners, prison, and religion: Religion and adjustment to prison

Todd R. Clear, Melvina T. Sumter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the twentieth century there has been much speculation by scholars in the United States about the relationship between religion and prisoners. In spite of the fact that both religion and the prison have been subjected to considerable study, we know little about religion in prison, particularly as it relates to the psychological adjustment of offenders to the prison environment and reduction in problematic behaviors such as disciplinary infractions. Applying a survey methodology which incorporates a recently developed scale of religiousness (the first to be developed with the assistance of inmates specifically for use with inmates) and a previously developed scale of inmate adjustment to prison, this study explores the relationship between inmate religiousness and adjustment to prison and the number of disciplinary confinements they receive. A self-report questionnaire was administered to a non-random sample of 769 inmates in 20 prisons from 12 states in order to determine if an inmate’s religiousness was related to prison adjustment and the number of disciplinary infractions they received. The findings from the study indicate that a significant relationship exists between inmate religiousness and multiple measures of inmate adjustment to the prison environment. More specifically, increasing levels of religiousness, as measured by a self-report questionnaire, are associated with higher levels of in-prison adjustment, as measured by the Wright prison adjustment questionnaire. Similarly, inmate religiousness (as measured by the same self-report questionnaire) is also significantly related to the number of times inmates report being placed in disciplinary confinement for violation of prison rules. Thus, higher levels of inmate religiousness are associated with better psychological adjustment to the prison environment and fewer self-reported disciplinary confinements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-156
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Offender Rehabilitation
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Law


  • Adjustment
  • Infractions
  • Inmate
  • Prison
  • Religion


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