Study: Religion helps Criminals Justify their Crimes

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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20 February 2013 16:32
 

hmmmm…

With God on my side: The paradoxical relationship between religious belief and criminality among hardcore street offenders

  Volkan Topalli
  Timothy Brezina
  Mindy Bernhardt

  Georgia State University, USA

  Volkan Topalli, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, The Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, PO Box 4018, Atlanta, GA 30302-4018, USA. Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Abstract

Research has found that many street offenders anticipate an early death, making them less prone to delay gratification, more likely to discount the future costs of crime, and thus more likely to offend. Ironically, many such offenders also hold strong religious convictions, including those related to the punitive afterlife consequences of offending. To reconcile these findings, we interviewed 48 active street offenders to determine their expectation of an early demise, belief in the afterlife, and notions of redemption and punishment. Despite the deterrent effects of religion that have been highlighted in prior research, our results indicate that religion may have a counterintuitive criminogenic effect in certain contexts. Through purposeful distortion or genuine ignorance, the hardcore offenders we interviewed are able to exploit the absolvitory tenets of religious doctrine, neutralizing their fear of death to not only allow but encourage offending. This suggests a number of intriguing consequences for deterrence theory and policy.

Takeaways:
- Prison ministries may not be all they’re cut up to be
- Prisoners may be selectively absorbing messages of absolution and forgiveness - possibly allowing them to justify future crimes (that will be forgiven)
- Prisoners up for parole may be demonstrating “religion” as a means of camouflaging ongoing criminal tendencies

 
 
Jeff M
 
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Jeff M
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20 February 2013 21:34
 

I’m glad someone is studying this.

After I read your post, it dawned on me that prison ministries are similar to “cure the gay” ministries.

They make big claims and wind up making things worse.

[ Edited: 20 February 2013 22:14 by Jeff M]
 
SkepticX
 
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SkepticX
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20 February 2013 23:24
 

It’s only a paradox to those who presume far too much and haven’t really considered the religious aspects of their socialization.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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20 February 2013 23:49
 

I have little to add with regards to psychology but some tangents occur to me:

The degree to which religious profession greases the wheels of probation is a big clue. Currently incarcerated persons can also gain privileges for playing ball. Large prisons predictably polarize racially. And many of these groups have their own unique religious profession. Lots of layers within the system.

At the risk of too much metaphor mixing I’m reminded of how entangled christianity is with various incarnations of the slave trade. Right from the beginning and not skipping a beat. I don’t posit a conspiracy theory as such because I don’t think there is a deliberate architect. But poverty, religion and involuntary confinement are a proven recipe for cheap labor. No surprise that it continues to work.

The tragically and disproportionately high level of incarceration in the US seems to require some dramatic explanation. Something broken within our culture.

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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21 February 2013 00:45
 
SkepticX - 20 February 2013 10:24 PM

It’s only a paradox to those who presume far too much and haven’t really considered the religious aspects of their socialization.

Since its only a single study, I’d prefer to wait for other corroborating findings before jumping on a bandwagon or anything.