Finding Freedom in Confinement
The Role of Religion in Prison Life
by Kent R. Kerley, Editor
January 2018, 422pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5031-8
$73, £55, 63€, A99
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5032-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

While the concept that being incarcerated provides a highly conducive environment for becoming spiritual seems clear, the role of faith in day-to-day prison life is much more complex and nuanced.

What is the nature and impact of faith and religion in prison? This book summarizes contemporary and cutting-edge research on religion in correctional contexts, enabling a scientific understanding of how prisoners use faith in their everyday lives.

Religion long has been a tool for correctional treatment. In the United States, religion was the primary treatment modality in the first prisons. Only since the 1980s, however, have social scientists begun to study the nature, extent, practice, and impact of faith and faith-based prison programs. Bringing together the knowledge of scholars from around the world, this single-volume book offers readers a science- and research-based understanding of how prisoners use faith in everyday life, examining the role of religion in prison/correctional contexts from a variety of interdisciplinary and international viewpoints.

By considering the perspectives of professionals actually working in corrections or prison settings as well as those of scholars studying religion and/or criminal justice, readers of Finding Freedom in Confinement: The Role of Religion in Prison Life can gain insight into the most contemporary research on religion in correctional contexts. The book contains data-driven, conceptual, and policy-oriented essays that cover major religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam within correctional environments. It also addresses subject matter such as the roles of prison chaplains and correctional officers and the relationships between religion and common aspects of prison life, such as drug abuse, gangs, violence, prisoner identity, rights of prisoners, and rehabilitation.


  • Presents an international scope that covers a diversity of faith traditions
  • Comprises contributions from leading scholars who incorporate various research methodologies, such as surveys, in-depth interviews, participant observation, and content analysis into their writings
  • Moves the discussion of religion in prison away from popular discourse, advocacy works, and media stories that prioritize emotion and sensationalism over empirical verification
Kent R. Kerley, PhD, is professor and chair in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at The University of Texas at Arlington. His primary research interests include corrections, religiosity, and drug careers. Kerley is author of the research monograph Religious Faith in Correctional Contexts and served as editor for Current Studies in the Sociology of Religion and Policing and Program Evaluation. His research has appeared in journals such as Aggression and Violent Behavior, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Justice Quarterly, Social Forces, and Social Problems. Kerley is principal investigator for two National Science Foundation grants used to create a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program (NSF Award # 1261322 and 1004953). He has also received research funding from Google and the Religious Research Association.


"Finding Freedom in Confinement is an excellent contribution to research examining the intersections of criminal justice, corrections, and religion. The volume features a wide range of compelling perspectives supported by sound empirical evidence, theoretical innovation, and promising policy recommendations. Scholars and policymakers would do well to consider the arguments offered here. Religion proves to be a valuable ally in offender rehabilitation and prison improvement efforts."—John P. Bartkowski, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at San Antonio

"Although invented as a sacred institution, the prison has been studied as though it were a fully secular enterprise. In a much-needed effort to revise this scholarly blind spot, Kent Kerley has compiled under one cover the most compelling collection of essays on religion in corrections across the globe. Taken together, these works illuminate the instrumental role of faith in shaping how inmates cope with imprisonment and seek redemption as they reenter society. This book is essential reading for all serious students of corrections."—Francis T. Cullen, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, University of Cincinnati

"Religion may well be the most understudied correlate of crime. Fortunately, Finding Freedom in Confinement: The Role of Religion in Prison Life provides a much-needed comprehensive overview of the relevance and import of faith and organized religion in corrections. Beyond detailing the significance of religion for prison culture and offender coping, this work also highlights religious programming as an increasingly essential component of offender programming. Kerley has assembled contributions from leading scholars whose chapters combine to put this edited volume at the forefront of the crime and religion literature."—J. Mitchell Miller, Professor, University of North Florida; Editor, American Journal of Criminal Justice
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