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Moral and Religious Influences - Prison Chaplains

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As prisons began hiring administrators, teachers, and counselors through the nineteenth century, the role of the religious chaplain declined. By the early twentieth century the role and effectiveness of prison chaplains was questioned. In San Quentin prison chaplain Earl Smith with a visiting pro football player in 2003. In addition to prison chaplains, volunteers representing various organizations visit prisons to promote religious activities. (© Kim Kulish/Corbis)
response to the declining influence of prison chaplains and religion in general in prisons, the Clinical Pastoral Education movement grew in the 1920s and 1930s.

The pastoral movement helped bring about professional training programs for prison chaplains. Chaplains were able to advise inmates in terms of religious service, counseling, and education. For example, chaplains could provide mental health counseling to help inmates deal with the psychological stress of prison life. Chaplains and other faith representatives could also help inmates find work once they were released and helped improve damaged family relationships.

In the early twenty-first century religious programs had become a regular feature of prisons, with nearly a third of inmates participating. In addition to prison chaplains, volunteers representing various religious organizations also visit prisons to promote religious activities. Maude Ballington Booth, daughter-in-law of the founders of the Salvation Army (a religion-based service organization), was one of the first people to encourage the use of volunteers in prisons. Prison chaplains usually coordinate volunteer activities. Among the religious organizations operating in several states is the Prison Fellowship Ministries.



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