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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.

National Guard and Immigration Control: Trumps Wildcard

February 18, 2017

Concerns. This is technically a military action on domestic ground. What it means is that in a military state action the US Constitution and the Amendments are suspended due to emergency need. As such the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th Amendments to the U S Constitution which protect Citizens is set aside until the emergency is contained. These Amendments protect citizens from criminal accusations, holding, trial and punishment without Due Process. Under suspension these rights and protections are lost. Anyone citizen or not may be stopped, questioned, detained, arrested, held in arrest without charge, denied confrontation of witnesses, denied trial, and punished without ability to defend ones self or have an attorney do so for them. The US Constitution offers protection whereas people may not arbitrarily be stopped without Reasonable Suspicion. And then a stop and a minimal search for a weapon may follow. Before any further abrogation of the freedom of movement maybe restricted Law Enforcement must have elevated suspicion that the individual perpetrated or is perpetrating a crime. This level of suspicion is called Probable Cause to search and or arrest. In cases of military state action these levels of suspicion are null and voidable.  
Granted the military may offer those detained and arrested some of these protections, but it is no longer a guarantee. Also most likely citizens who initially could not prove citizenship to the requisite level would later be released after a stop, arrest or detention. However, the complications to daily life is incredibly interrupted. Anyone who has traveled abroad to countries like Israel, Russia, Turkey, Mexico and the like will appreciate military roadblocks and check point interrogations.  

Herbert Spencer

December 21, 2016

Herbert Spencer: Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.~ Herbert Spencer, The Ethics of Social Life: Justice

Seems to me that our age in history fails to consider that too much “individual” freedom leads to oppression of weaker individuals and groups of a society. Ironically the call for freedom and individualism tends to feed elitist attitudes of “difference”. Taken to the extreme this feeds ultimately a phase of conflict, fear and hate. Once this conflict begins it festers into a sore that inbreeds within the society which in turn becomes ripe for groups to rally and seek correction in the name of patriotism and nationalism; to call for a restoration of past histories, traditions and status. In short, it may support fascism. We should strive for “group” freedom which means individual desires may not be realized if costs are to high in terms of societal survival and the social well-being.

Religion in Prison

December 20, 2016

After several readings over several days I just knocked out an intriguing peer review of a proposed journal article today. It involves the Jewish perspective of criminology and the use of religion as part of an overall therapy technique by which imprisoned Offenders, that wish to, may transform their identity employing religion. This is central to my own research.  
While the article was highly theological (not a bad thing) and focused on Judaism I believe it offers much to consider by way of criminology. To the merit of the authors they propose that the focus on Judaism as a treatment for change is not unilateral, but only by example. Inclusively, from a secular and social perspective, traditional religions generically may be employed as both a social process and social structural means of support for pro social change in identity. 

I look forward to the publication of this article.

Zurich Shooter Berlin Shooter

December 20, 2016

First, I am not downplaying anything in regards to the wanton taking of another’s life. However, why isn’t the Zurich, Switzerland attack on a mosque getting the same news coverage as Berlin, Ankara or even Syria? Granted these are three different kinds of killings.  
The Ankara, Turkey assassination of the Russian Ambassador was political assassination. The Syrian situation clearly has elements of “war crime” which are similar to the indiscriminate and criminal tactics of the regime of Israel against the children, women, and aging of Gaza. Yet Israel remains unscathed by news reporting on these atrocities. Berlin distinctively appears terroristic, but then again so does the lone shooter that entered the Zurich mosque filled with worshippers. No media I have thus far predicted the religion, if any, of the Zurich shooter. Perhaps until they can safely report that the shooter was “Islamic looking” they will not give this event much coverage. This leaves me looking for a thread by which to seek to understand these reporting strategies.

Zurich, Switzerland

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.

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