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Evaluating Religious Initiatives in a Correctional Setting: Do Inmates Speak?

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 35 Issue: 3/4 Dated: 2002 Pages: 199-214
Andrew Skotnicki
Thomas P. O'Connor, Nathaniel J. Pallone
Date Published
16 pages
This paper investigates the methods criminologists employ in reporting on what inmates say about their religious behavior and/or experience and specifically, how meaning is derived from what has been recorded.
This paper discusses how inmates themselves often do not speak to any significant degree to criminologists due to a lack of attentiveness to translation, context, and meaning, thereby, clouding sociological reports. Social scientific accounts of inmate religious behavior fail to account for questions asked by philosophical hermeneutics and linguistics. This paper begins by presenting basic insights developed by some of the key figures in both linguistics and hermeneutics. This is followed with a presentation on the general weakness of the criminological literature in accounting for and conveying what inmates are truly saying. The final section critiques the treatment of religion as it applies to the correctional setting. To probe the relationship between religion and the offender, one must take into account one’s own language, its prejudices, and the way its particular web of symbols refracts the images that one sees. Inmate religious culture is a symbolic world with its own constitutive rules. For these rules to be understood one’s analytical expectations must be reduced and one must consider the possibility that the language of faith is a precondition for understanding the experience of faith. References