From the sanctuary to the slammer: Exploring the narratives of evangelical prison ministry workers

Academic Article


  • Current survey research reveals that religious conservatives exhibit more punitive attitudes toward criminal offenders than their nonreligious and mainline counterparts. Despite the pervasiveness of conservative Protestant support for the punitive treatment of criminal offenders, evangelical-run prison ministry programs have proliferated in recent decades. This study uses in-depth interviews to examine the motivations of prison ministry workers. The narratives demonstrate that prison ministry workers embrace a distinctive orientation of compassion and, through sustained contact with inmates, they negotiate the tension between conservative religious values and their practical experiences working in prison ministry. From this overarching theme of compassion, three important subthemes emerged: (1) the calling of prison ministry, (2) special connections to the prison context, and (3) a sense of comfort and security with inmates. Overall, we observe how prison ministers negotiate two competing moral logics-judgment and compassion-in light of their religious convictions and experiences with inmate outreach. © Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kerley KR; Bartkowski JP; Matthews TL; Emond TL
  • Start Page

  • 504
  • Volume

  • 30
  • Issue

  • 5