Religion, reintegration and rehabilitation in French prisons

Abstract : On the basis of a large and in-­‐depth empirical survey partly commissioned by the French Penitentiary Administration conducted between 2010 and 2013, our paper intends to discuss the sociological literature concerning the uses of religion as a resource by inmates to face incarceration. It is indeed often taken for granted by sociological studies about religion in prison that religion may be such a resource. Our research has also highlighted that prison tends to intensify the relation to religion and we explain this phenomenon by arguing that religion helps to deal with incarceration. Yet, the reasons why it is so and the question to whom this resource is made available has till now not been tackled properly. In our paper we will first highlight that even in a secularist state like France Prison represents a religious friendly institution. The institutionalization of a religious supply is, no doubt, a part of the explanation of the success of religion in Prison. Religious rights, chaplains, places and times dedicated to religious services and activities make religion particularly available for inmates. The second factor that may explain the intensification of the uses of religion in prison is the fact that religions represent symbolic systems particularly efficient in giving a sense to social suffering and re-­‐ enchanting life when it is confronted with pain and absurdity. Religion may be here described as a last resort resource. Our paper will then point out that even if religion may be considered as a resource, it remains a “relative” resource. First, it is not available for everybody: our research has shown that religious socialization is a determining factor even for conversions. If it is true that prison tends to intensify inmate’s religious life, this statement is mostly valid for religious socialized inmates. Secondly, it is often the privation of other resources (visits, work, activities like sport, schooling etc.) that makes religion particularly appreciated by inmates. In this perspective, religion must be analyzed as a default resource. Thirdly, our research has shown that the relationship to religion may vary along the inmates stay in prison.
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Corinne Rostaing, Céline Béraud, Claire de Galembert. Religion, reintegration and rehabilitation in French prisons. Irene Becci, Olivier Roy. Religious Diversity in European Prisons: Challenges and Implications for Rehabilitation, Springer, pp.63-79, 2015, 978-3-319-16777-0. ⟨10.1007/978-3-319-16778-7_5⟩. ⟨halshs-01448566⟩

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