|This paper highlights current doctoral research into the phenomenon of religious conversion in contrasting penal cultures. There is much anecdotal evidence of prisoners having profound life-changing religious conversions whilst incarcerated yet, surprisingly, their prevalence has received little academic attention. Although there exists an extensive literature on the psychology of religious conversion, there is no specific mention within this literature of prisoners (italics) as a convert group. "Jailhouse religion" typically invites an incredulous response from a sceptical general public. This research attempts to explain why the prison environment in particular is conducive towards religious conversions taking place. Understanding the psychological dynamic of a prison conversion can ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of the effects (italics) of imprisonment. Understanding the psychological and social contexts of prison conversions may also further knowledge of how prisoners cope with the experience of imprisonment. The research described in this paper has tested out a number of well-founded theories within the psychology of religion on an original set of interviewees: the incarcerated. Extracts from semi-structured interviews with convert prisoners in both Britain and America will be referred to in order to delineate the various psychological and behavioural effects (italics) that a conversion can have on an individual prisoner.
(Return to Program Resources)