Public Support for Faith-Based Correctional Programs: Should Sacred Places Serve Civic Purposes?

Francis T. Cullen, University of Cincinnati
Jennifer Pealer, University of Cincinnati
Bonnie Fisher, University of Cincinnati
Brandon K. Applegate, University of Central Florida
Shannon A. Santana, University of Cincinnati

In light of recent legislation and the enthusiastic support of President Bush, there is a growing call to fund "faith-based" social service programs, including those focused on juvenile and adult offenders. These programs are controversial because they seek to reconfigure the line separating church and state. Based on a national 2001 survey of 327 respondents, we assessed public support for this policy initiative. The major findings were: 1) the respondents were divided evenly on whether the government should fund faith-based correctional programs; 2) a clear majority opposed having a religious content to the programs; 3) most opposed discrimination on religious grounds in the hiring of program staff; 4) a clear majority favored funding all religious groups as opposed to only "Christian churches"; and 5) the respondents did not view faith-based programs as more, or less, effective than traditional correctional rehabilitation programs. The study also explored now religious beliefs and other social factors affected support for faith-based interventions.

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Updated 05/20/2006