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July 25, 2011

"The factor of faith in crime reduction"

More_god-e1306873932279 The title of this post is the headline of this recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle by Byron Johnson, a Professor at Baylor University who is the author a notable new book titled "More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How it Could Matter More." (2011).  Here are excerpts from the op-ed:

[U]nderstanding the nature of the relationship between religion and crime may provide much needed insights to help decision-makers and practitioners operate a more effective criminal justice system.  For example, rigorous research can yield important data assessing the role of thousands of faith-motivated individuals, houses of worship and other faith-based groups interested in crime reduction and offender-rehabilitation programs.  Faith-based approaches to mentoring at-risk youth, drug treatment, restorative justice, cognitive restructuring of offenders or spiritual transformation of prisoners already exist in most communities.  Thus, understanding how religion might prevent crime, or help youth from bad neighborhoods to be resilient in spite of their surroundings, is an important and policy-relevant matter.

Research can help us not only understand how faith might matter, but how these faith-informed approaches can be modified and improved to have greater impact on common civic goals — like crime reduction and public safety — valued by all....

[My research has found that] active participation in a church plays a critical protective role and helps youth to be resilient to the negative influences of living in economically impoverished environments.... I recently completed the most exhaustive systematic review conducted to date of the relevant research literature on religion and crime.  This review located 273 studies on religion and crime that were published between 1944 and 2010. Ninety percent of the studies (247 of 273) find increasing religiosity to be associated with decreases in various measures of crime and delinquency.  Only two out of 273 studies report religion was associated with a harmful outcome....

Put simply, increasing religiosity tends to be associated with decreasing crime. The weight of this evidence is especially intriguing in light of the fact that religion continues to be overlooked by so many. For example, one will look in vain to find any references at all to religion in criminology and criminal justice textbooks.  This is because many social scientists go out of their way to overlook or dismiss the role religion plays in crime reduction in spite of the evidence showing religion is an important protective factor.  Stated differently, religion insulates youth from harmful outcomes like suicide or crime, and helps them to be resilient within communities of disadvantage.  Even more compelling is the fact that most faith-based interventions tend to be volunteer-driven and consequently are cost-effective. In an age of evidence-based government and unprecedented economic struggles, it would seem to be prudent to give more thoughtful attention to the many possibilities that religion and faith-based approaches can bring to bear on matters of crime and justice. 

July 25, 2011 at 12:12 PM | Permalink


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The prison population of the religious are in the high 90 percentile. Also, the most crime-ridden neighborhoods have the highest concentration of churches.
This book has got to be selective statistics.

Posted by: Steve | Jul 26, 2011 3:27:15 AM

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