The Effect of Ministering on Death Row: An Examination of the Work Experiences of Prison Chaplains

Kelly L. Brown, Indiana State University
Jody L. Sundt, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale

Aside from a handful of autobiographies, little information exists about the experiences of religious workers who minister to death row inmates. This paper considers whether death row chaplains differ from other chaplains and examines the effect that working on death row has chaplains' experiences of work stress and job satisfaction. Based on a national probability sample of 74 chaplains who work on death row and 158 chaplains who minister to regular inmate populations, preliminary results reveal few differences between the two groups. It was discovered, however, that death row chaplains experiences higher levels of role conflict and view prison as more unjust than other chaplains. The implications of these findings for our understanding of death row and prison chaplaincy are discussed. More broadly, the authors consider the implications of the findings for our understanding of the role that religion and religious workers play in the administration of the death penalty.

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Updated 05/20/2006