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Investigating the Impact of Religiosity on Emotional and Behavioral Coping in Prison

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: 2006 Pages: 69-93
Kent R. Kerley; Marisa C. Allison; Rachelle D. Graham
Date Published
25 pages
This study explored the degree to which religiosity impacted both the emotional and behavioral forms of prison coping.
The results highlight an interesting relationship between religion and prison coping. For first-time offenders, as well as chronic offenders, the prison context forces inmates to deal with a range of negative emotions. Many inmates develop methods for negotiating the rules and regulations of the facility and will find ways to deal with the isolation, loneliness, and powerlessness of the situation. However, when inmates are not able to cope adaptively with incarceration, there exists the possibility of interpersonal aggression ranging from arguments to the use of lethal violence. Strong evidence was found suggesting a suppressing effect of religion on negative interpersonal relations. Religiosity appeared in both its cognitive and behavioral dimensions, to serve as a positive coping mechanism for inmates by directly reducing the likelihood of frequent inmate arguments. Study findings were consistent with a large body of research suggesting that religion might reduce anti-social behaviors and promote prosocial behaviors. Given the significant rise in incarceration rates over the past 30 years and the uniquely stressful context of prison life, many researchers have explored the degree to which individuals are able to cope with incarceration. Over the years, many factors have been explored for their potential impact on inmate coping. Using data from a representative survey of inmates (N=386) at a large prison facility in the Southeastern region of the United States, this study explored the degree to which religiosity impacted both the emotional and behavioral forms of prison coping. Tables, references