April 9, 2012

Many State Prison Chaplains Say Religious Extremism Is Common Among Inmates

41%

About four-in-ten (41%) state prison chaplains say that religious extremism is either very common (12%) or somewhat common (29%) among inmates.

A sizable minority (41%) of state prison chaplains say that religious extremism is either very common (12%) or somewhat common (29%) among inmates. According to the chaplains, religious extremism is especially common among Muslim inmates (including followers of the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America) and somewhat common among followers of pagan or earth-based religions, such as Odinism and various forms of Wicca.

An overwhelming majority of chaplains, however, report that religious extremism seldom poses a threat to the security of the facility in which they work. Only 4% of chaplains saythat religious extremism “almost always” poses a threat to prison security and an additional 19% say it “sometimes” poses a threat.

A number of factors are likely to influence chaplains’ perceptions of religious extremism, including the kind of facility where they work and their individual backgrounds and perspectives. For example, estimates of religious extremism among inmate populations tend to vary based on the security level of the facility. About four-in-ten chaplains in maximum security (44%) and medium security facilities (42%) say religious extremism is very or somewhat common, compared with 32% of chaplains in minimum security facilities.

Estimates of religious extremism also vary based on the religious affiliation and race of the chaplains. Protestant chaplains are more likely than those of the Catholic or Muslim faith see religious extremism as either very or somewhat common. This view is slightly more common among white evangelical chaplains than among white mainline Protestants. Read More