Prisoners who find God in jail are no less likely to reoffend that those who have a religion, a new study has revealed.
After an analysis of 174 inmates, the study found that religion was not an affective catalyst for rehabilitation.
Iman Said, one of the authors at Pennsylvania State University told Premier other factors such as retraining, having a job and safe accommodation were more significant in reducing reoffending.
Iman said: “Numerous barriers, including finding and maintaining jobs, securing housing, renewing ties with family and others, prevent religion from effectively supporting the reentry process for many incarcerated men, which can encourage relapse.”
“Our findings call into question prison-based religious programmes as the sole way to reduce recidivism and boost post-release success and suggest a lack of a relationship between religious beliefs and recidivism.”
The 174 inmates attended a substance-use disorder programme in prison and were tracked through their time in jail and once released.
Their level of faith was measured through interviews including questions about how many times they participated in religious activities before, during, and after prison.
They also had regular access to faith-based services and a full-time chaplain.
Religion is thought to be seen as a way to help inmates come to terms with their crime, repent and turn their lives around.
However the study suggests once the inmates were released there was no difference in them reoffending compared to non-religious inmates.
Joanne O’Connor is director of Junction 42 a Christian charity in the UK which supports offenders and their families.
When asked what do they see on the ground with prisoners who find God and if they more likely to offend as opposed to atheist inmates, Joanne said: “I think what's really interesting is find and fear is, it's whenever we talk about finding faith and reoffend, and I think the first thing we need to work on to talk about is, you know, someone find them faith is more than just whether they offend or not.
“So whether someone, it's part of it, but I suppose, when someone finds fear, it's an internal thing that happens that it's almost like, whenever the gospel is at work, there's like, a renewing from the inside out.
“That covers all aspects of behaviour, and not just whether someone offends or not.
“An example of this is if someone is an absent father, who wasn't able to maintain good relationships, or was violent and relationships or wasn't able to hold down a job, like all of these things that make us whole citizens and whole people.
“So the gospel and finding faith in God is about a whole process.”