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Islamic and Christian Conversion in Prison

November 26, 2014

My latest article Religious Conversion in Prison: Prosocial V. Antisocial Identities appears in the International Journal of Education and Social Science, Research Institute for Progression of Knowledge.

In this article “Prisoner transformation through religious conversion is a varied pathway where the reasons for seeking change, for selecting religion as a means of change, the selection of a helper, the religious group affiliated with and the effect of social, cultural and political factors create subtle distinctions in how one experiences conversion or not and if so, how transformation develops and proceeds toward anti- or pro-social outcomes.  Does this tell us anything that we may later quantify and statistically base predictions upon? In responding to this question there are seven points worthy of consideration.

First, religious conversion and transformation in identity is a “much nuanced pathway”.

Second, what is found in both religions is that there are many “forks in the road” during the conversion process and transforming identities. Forks were evidenced in both the inclusivist and exclusivist religious community identity and in the incorporationist and rejectionist worldview identity.

Third, the narratives evidenced that religion is just one alternative for gaining knowledge of self. Other alternatives are education, counseling, and gangs.

Fourth, in comparing Christian and Islamic participants it emerged that not all of either faith who experience religious conversion and become inclusivist or exclusivist and in both types there are both incorporationists and rejectionists. Of the 22 participants 2 coding exclusive and 2 coding inclusive were rejecting of society. Moreover of those coding both exclusive and rejecting one was Christian and one was Islamic. Most participants were cooperative toward larger society whether inclusive or exclusive in religious identity.

Fifth, in each religion no definitive process of radicalization emerged although one participant professing Islam and that coded exclusive/rejecting spoke of hate of white people and racism. And, in another case a professing Christian that coded exclusive/rejecting spoke of leading people in violent opposition to government.

Sixth, the four participants coded rejectionist used particular words related to specific concepts that disassociated and sanctified their anti-social behavior even in light of their profession of religion and spirituality.

Seventh, descriptive words and phrases may be operationalized in relation to concepts and scales created to quantify findings in future studies.

Policy Implications for Corrections and Directions for Research

This research establishes a model study for giving prisoners a voice in their transformation, it offers guidelines for study of religious conversion in prison, provides assistance to the correctional system and supports the professional and volunteer chaplaincy as part of an overall prison treatment program designed to help individuals seeking to change their lives pro-socially to do so, to desist from crime and thereby reduce their chances of returning to prison. Findings support a conclusion that isolating one religion as a radicalizing source unduly burdens free practice of religion and fails to recognize other religions have similar tendencies. As noted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2008) restrictions on any non-Christian religion must not result in having their “free exercise” rights to practice religion unduly burdened by the state without a compelling interest.

Prison administrators, chaplains, psychologists, counselors are better equipped to understand how including religion or spirituality into correctional treatment assists desistance (stopping crime) and thereby helps prisoners help themselves not return to prison. It promotes a better understanding of how involving the felon in an active role will promote possible transformation to a pro-social member of society (Norcross & Wampold, 2010; Worthington, Hook, Davis, & McDaniel, 2010).

Importantly, the findings support the need for an interdisciplinary approach where treatment professionals and institutional administrators work holistically with religious services as part of an overall treatment program.  Simultaneously it speaks to the need for trained volunteers for all religious faiths served by the prison chaplaincy programs. It therefore provides support and direction for prison chaplaincy and volunteer programs and enhances chaplaincy as a correctional profession.

Inmate vs Prisoner: a case of Missed Identity

November 26, 2016

Voice, self expression and playing an active role is critical in reforming and transforming criminality as an identity. In my study with Prisoner Narratives I used the word ‘inmate’ because IRB insisted in the sterilized term. As I began with each interview I used the word inmate to refer to their status. All but one expressed the desire to be called ‘prisoner’ rather than inmate. I believe in giving marginalized populations ‘voice’.

Last Day of Freedom

November 21, 2016

An excellent film.  I highly recommend your viewing :Last Day of Freedom (2016) by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman. Please find my review at EMRO, a documentary database hosted by the Libraries of the University of Buffalo.   Read more…


November 4, 2016

If only this message would sink in ‘universally’..if only all people would question their governments’ position on nationalism, politics and othering.


November 4, 2016

If only this message would sink in ‘universally’..if only all people would question their governments’ position on nationalism, politics and othering.​

Giddens on Consequences of Modernity

October 6, 2016

Notes:  “The Contours of High Modernity”[1]   Obviously Giddens rejects that we have moved from a modern society to a post-modern or informational society.  Rather he promotes that we are still in …

Source: Giddens on Consequences of Modernity

Winds of Change and America’s Weakening Glue

October 1, 2016

Personally I believe much of the problem today arises in the 1990s political drive focusing on “diversity” or distinctions between American peoples in terms of subcategories categories …

Source: Winds of Change and America’s Weakening Glue

Winds of Change and America’s Weakening Glue

October 1, 2016

Personally I believe much of the problem today arises in the 1990s political drive focusing on “diversity” or distinctions between American peoples in terms of subcategories categories in terms of migrant cultural traditions and histories of their ancestors.  
     This process places notations on differences and often fosters or increases ‘exclusivity’. In this case the categorical identity of US nationalism was the driving force behind the diversity movement. This monocular focus created tension over cultures and histories of subcategories of Americans. This focus on differences has in my opinion increased tensions over cultural and historical distinctions thereby translating into exclusivist dogmas in self identity’ and ‘community identity’.  
     Rather than diverse sub-identities (for we each have many) the national “and” cultural focus together should have been and more so now should be to seize upon “unity” or similarity” of Americans as a dominant culture. After all, those who have sought to become Americans are above all else Americans. And while each sub category of Americans have cultural traditions and histories to be proud of we as Americans have a dominant culture and history to take pride in, share with others, and seek together to make even greater.  
     The diversity movement in my opinion has confused the definition of what it is to be American. This has created an anomic effect: creating too great a focus on diversity and driving egoistic responses from the many sub-categories who are each groping for understanding and direction in life (Durkheim 1915). Each sub-category of Americans find themselves lost in direction and have little guidance to call upon for answers. Increasingly our populous distrusts the status quo in terms of politic, religion, family, military, government, the three branches of criminal justice, media and health care.  
     Without restoration in social solidarity our American culture is progressively coming unglued and frays of the tearing cloth are our people fluttering in the wind. A wind of too rapid change unregulated and little in terms in integration.  

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