References (402)



Do Faith-Based Prisons Work?

Alexander Volokh

Emory University School of Law


Alabama Law Review, Vol. 63, 2011
Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-99
Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 11-145

This Article examines everything we know about the effectiveness of faith-based prisons, which is not very much.

Most studies cannot be taken seriously because they are tainted by the “self-selection problem.” It is hard to determine the effect of faith-based prison programs because they are voluntary, and volunteers are more likely to be motivated to change and are therefore already less likely to commit infractions or be re-arrested. This problem is the same one that education researchers have struggled with in determining whether private schools are better than public schools.

The only credible studies done so far compare participants with non-participants who volunteered for the program but were rejected. Some studies in this category find no effect, but some do find a modest effect. But even those that find an effect are subject to additional critiques: for instance, participants may have benefited from being exposed to treatment resources that non-participants were denied.

Thus, based on current research, there is no strong reason to believe that faith-based prisons work. However, there is also no strong reason to believe that they do not work. I conclude with thoughts on how faith-based prison programs might be improved, and offer a strategy that would allow such experimentation to proceed consistent with the Constitution.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 53

Keywords: prisons, faith-based, empirics, self-selection, religion

JEL Classification: C10, H41, K14, K42

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: March 22, 2011 ; Last revised: October 4, 2013

Suggested Citation

Volokh, Alexander, Do Faith-Based Prisons Work? (2011). Alabama Law Review, Vol. 63, 2011; Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 11-99; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 11-145. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1789282 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1789282

Contact Information

Alexander (Sasha) Volokh (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-5225 (Phone)
404-727-6820 (Fax)

Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 2,508
Downloads: 276
Download Rank: 85,469
References:  402