Religious affiliation of inmates in U.S. prisons, 2011

This statistic shows U.S. prison chaplains estimations of the percentage of inmates belonging to different organized faiths and religions as of 2011. Chaplains surveyed reported that on average 50.6 percent of inmates were of protestant faiths.

Additional information on religion in United States prisons

The religious affiliation of inmates in the United States, the country with most prisoners per head globally, is reasonably similar to the religious affiliations of the society overall. That said, the proportion of non-religious inmates and those declining to express their religious affiliation is smaller than the overall proportion. In contrast the number of Muslim inmates is disproportionately large in comparison with wider society. As a result a sizable share of prison chaplains identity as Muslim, catering to the preferences of the Muslim prison population.

Following the September 11, 2001 World Trade Centre attacks and the subsequent War on Terror launched by George W. Bush, religious extremism has been a target of public debate and policy. The debate has stretched into prisons particularly with the United States prison on Guantanamo Bay holding a number of suspected terrorists related to religious extremism. In turn, fears have been raised that prisons have become a hotbed for religious extremism.

Critics have argued that religious extremism has provided an unwarranted justification for the conviction of Muslims. Regardless of the supposed reason for their imprisonment, this disproportionate number presents a problem for United States policy makers.

Mean religious affiliation of inmates in U.S. prisons, as reported by prison chaplains in 2011

Mean share of inmates
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Source

Release date

March 2012

Region

United States

Survey time period

September 21, 2011 to December 23, 2011

Number of respondents

730 respondents

Age group

8-19 years

Special properties

Prison chaplains

Method of interview

Questionnaire

Supplementary notes

* Includes followers of the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America.
** The question listed the following examples: "Baha'is, Rastafarians, practicioners of Santeria, Sikhs and others."
Original question: Thinking of all the inmates in the prison(s) where you work, approximately what percentage of them identify with the following religious groups?

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Statistics on "Prisoners in the United States"

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