U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

A Mixed Method Evaluation of the Role of Religion in Desistance and Reentry

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 40 Issue: 1 Dated: 2023 Pages: 1-26
Date Published
26 pages

In this article, the authors describe both methodology and outcomes for their examination of the relationship between religion and desistance of criminal activities upon community re-entry following detention.


Literature holds that religious engagement can help prisoners cope with prison life and suggests it may affect the likelihood of recidivism. But despite agreement that religion supports identity transformation and generates social control, few studies have examined the utility of these mechanisms during both prison and re-entry. The relationship between religion and desistance may be complicated by structural barriers to re-entry and high rates of substance use among incarcerated populations. In this paper, the authors address that information gap using a longitudinal mixed methods design based on data collected from men in a Therapeutic Community in a Pennsylvania prison, with N = 174 for quantitative analyses, and N = 51 for qualitative. The authors used several methods to compare the prevalence of psychological versus sociological mechanisms of religion in prison, assess variation in recidivism outcomes by trajectory of religious engagement, and explore the utility of religion in overcoming structural barriers to successful reentry. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2023