Religion, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Prison Inmates Into Mainstream Society

Religion, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Prison Inmates Into Mainstream Society

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1286-9.ch023
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This chapter surveys scholarly works on the extent to which religion influences inmate rehabilitation and reintegration into mainstream society. Apart from conceptual explanations, the empirical reviews add to its analytic claims. This study argues that despite the functions of religion in relation to crime and its pro-social behaviour, its rehabilitation and reintegration function is limited due to the neglected roles of faith communities, families, and other legal institutions. The literature analysis concludes that the efforts to institute religion in prison to reform and rehabilitate inmates are fruitless due to the divergent interests of the actors involved. The religious civil society organisations that participated in convicted prisoner rehabilitation did not show the same interest in their reintegration into mainstream society.
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Examining Religion

The history of religion is characterized by error and illusion (Radcliffe-Brown, 1945). To Gaur (2011), the exact place and time of the origin of religion is not really known. As a result, this paper will not dive into its origin and history. That said, it is important to state that, in the sociological study of religion, certain things are not of so much importance to the sociologists. For instance, whether a particular religion is true or false (Assimeng, 2010), but rather the social functions of religion (Radcliffe-Brown, 1945; Nottingham, 1952). Some earlier sociologists have discovered the social functions of religion as follows: maintenance and support of the social order; control of the activities of men and women in their encounter with their social and natural environment; provision of circumstances which bring people together to participate in common activities understood and meaningful to them, such as festivals in traditional societies; regularization of the network of social relationships and; the ultimate source of cohesion in society (Assimeng, 2010 p. 11).

Aside the illusionist characteristic associated with religion, there is no generally accepted definition of the term. According to Beckford (2009), ‘What is religion?’ or ‘What is really religious?’ remain argumentative and has the possibility of rousing up disagreement in public life. Nonetheless, many scholars have attempted to define religion in their own way based on their background and understanding of the concept, as the concept means different things to the sociologist or anthropologist, the theologian, and the psychologist. In the Henry Myers’ lecture of 1945, Radcliffe-Brown stated that the common way of probing religion is to regard all of them, or all except one, as bodies of erroneous beliefs and illusory practices (p. 153). The implication is that only one type of religion may not be erroneous, that is, if we are to regard all except one, but how is such a religion determined? This is a difficult question if not impossible to be answered.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Religion: Beliefs, rituals, practices, and symbols (overt or covert) in and of a higher power considered by adherents and (or) a group of adherents (organization) as sacred and performs certain meaningful functions in their life and in the life of other believers.

Religious Civil Society Organizations: Society considered as a community of citizens linked by common interests and collective activity.

Conversion: The process of changing or causing a person to change from his/her criminal ways to adopt a new self, that is based on the precept of his/her faith.

Pro-Social Behavior: Prosocial behavior is a type of voluntary behavior designed to help others.

Subculture: A behavior at variance with the dominant prison culture.

Ex-Convicts: These are individuals who have been discharged by a prison and no more serving a sentence.

Inmates: These are individuals who are convicted by a competent court of jurisdiction and serving a prison term.

Rehabilitation: The process of equipping inmates with skills so that they can implement after discharge.

Crime: An action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law.

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