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Practice Profile

Faith-Based Correctional Interventions

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Institutional Misconduct
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Antisocial beliefs/attitudes

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Faith-based interventions have been implemented in adult correctional facilities around the country, providing a wide range of services to incarcerated individuals. The overall goal of faith-based correctional interventions is to promote prosocial and religious messages, with the goal of changing inmate attitudes (including reducing criminal attitudes) and decreasing institutional misconduct.

Practice Theory
Faith-based correctional interventions are predominately based on two criminological theories: social control/social attachment (Hirschi 1969; Sampson and Laub 1993) and social learning (Andrews 1995; Bandura 1997; O’Connor and Perreyclear 2002). According to social attachment theory, the more attached an individual is to prosocial institutions, the less likely she or he is to engage in criminal activity. Using this theory as its framework, faith-based correctional programming suggests that religion provides offenders with an attachment to a prosocial institution that they value and relationships they do not want to jeopardize.

Social learning theory hypothesizes that behavior, both criminal and non-criminal, is learned. Within the context of faith-based correctional programming, the assumption is that offenders can learn prosocial behavior by forming a relationship with faith leaders who promote positive values and behavior and encourage a commitment to conventional activities (O’Connor and Perreyclear 2002).

Practice Components
These faith-based interventions take place within adult correctional facilities; however, the specific activities or components vary across programs. For example, some interventions are based on a formal curriculum, with programs lasting anywhere from 1 day to 18 months. Others are much less formal and based on an individual’s participation in church-related activities.

Despite these differences, common components of faith-based interventions include church leadership, faith education, spiritual seminars, bible study, spiritual counseling, and worship services. Programs are also facilitated by a variety of individuals, including chaplains, volunteers, religious leaders, and prison staff.

Additional Information
The meta-analysis by Schaefer, Sams, and Lux (2016) found that faith-based correctional interventions had no statistically significant effect on measures of institutional misconduct. However, the meta-analysis also showed that those inmates who participated in faith-based correctional interventions had a statistically significant increase in antisocial beliefs, compared with inmates who did not participate.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Institutional Misconduct
Aggregating the results from 27 effect sizes across studies that used statistically matched control groups, Schaefer, Sams, and Lux (2016) found that faith-based correctional interventions had no statistically significant effect on institutional misconduct.
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Attitudes & Beliefs - Antisocial beliefs/attitudes
Examining the results of six effect sizes from studies that used statistically matched control groups, Schaefer, Sams, and Lux (2016) found that faith-based correctional interventions had a statistically significant impact (g=0.43) on attitudinal change (specifically, antisocial beliefs); however, the direction of the relationship was the opposite of what was anticipated. Individuals who participated in faith-based interventions experienced an increase in antisocial beliefs, compared with matched individuals who did not participate.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11987 - 2010150

Meta-Analysis 1
Schaefer and colleagues (2016) conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of faith-based correctional interventions on inmate attitudes and behaviors, including institutional misconduct. To identify studies, specific keywords related to faith-based programming were used to search bibliographic databases such as EBSCO, Academic Search Complete, SAGE, and Dissertation Abstracts International. To be eligible for inclusion, the study could not be exclusively qualitative and had to include adequate statistics to compute effect sizes, adequate independent variables of faith-based programming, and an outcome measure of offender change. This resulted in a total of 15 studies included in the review.

Of these 15 studies, 3 evaluated inmate attitudes (such as criminal thinking, anxiety, and perspective taking), 11 examined inmate misconduct, and 1 examined both. Of this total, 12 studies were quasi-experimental, and 3 were non-experimental. Although both published and unpublished reports were included in the search, the majority of the studies were published as journal articles, between 1987 and 2010. Five of the included studies were conducted nationally (meaning multisite data collection), four were conducted in the South, and three were conducted in the Midwest. Most of the interventions took place in standard prisons (all but one of the studies were conducted within medium-security prisons) and included both males and females in the study samples (one study looked only at male inmates). The average age of study participants was 34.7. No information was provided on the race/ethnicity of study participants.

Of the included studies, five examined the impact of an explicit intervention as the independent variable, while eight included self-reported religiousness as the independent variable. Programmatic components of the included studies were predominately mentorship or spiritual counseling, bible study, worship service attendance, church leadership training, and faith education courses.

A standardized mean difference (Hedges’ g) was calculated for the outcomes in the meta-analysis. To analyze the effect sizes, random effects models were estimated. A total of 57 effect sizes were calculated. Of these, 14 effect sizes estimated the effect of faith-based interventions on attitudes, and 43 effect sizes estimated the impact of faith-based programs on institutional misconduct.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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Schaefer, Sams, and Lux (2016) conducted subgroup analyses to determine whether formally defined interventions (i.e., those that use a curriculum) have a differential impact on inmate attitudes and institutional misconduct, compared with non-formal, faith-based interventions (such as attending church services). The analyses indicated that effectiveness differed between formal and non-formal interventions. Specifically, the authors found that formally defined interventions achieved greater effects on inmate attitudes than programs that were less defined; however, the direction of the relationship was the opposite of what was anticipated. Individuals who participated in formally defined, faith-based interventions experienced a statistically significant increase in antisocial beliefs, compared with individuals who participated in programs that were non-formal. In addition, there were no statistically significant differences between formally and non-formally defined interventions on institutional misconduct.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Schaefer, Lacey, Tara Sams, and Jennifer Lux. 2016. "Saved, Salvaged, or Sunk: A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Faith-Based Interventions on Inmate Adjustment." The Prison Journal 96(4):600–22.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Andrews, Don. 1995. “The Psychology of Criminal Conduct and Effective Treatment.” In J. McGuire (ed.). What Works: Reducing Criminal Reoffending. New York, N.Y.: John Wiley, 35–62.

Bandura, Albert. 1977. Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Hirschi, Travis. 1969. Causes of Delinquency. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

O’Connor, Thomas, and Michael Perreyclear. 2002. “Prison Religion in Action and Its Influence on Offender Rehabilitation.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 35(3):11–33.

Sampson, Robert, and John Laub. 1993. Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 30 - 40

Gender: Both

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Settings: Correctional

Practice Type: Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Group Therapy, Individual Therapy, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Persons