Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


James Pann

Committee Member

Marcelo Castro

Committee Member

James Nardozzi


anti-Semitism, correctional chaplains, incarcerated, Jewish, religion


This study explored the role religious belief and practice played amongst Jewish, female inmates during their incarceration. A group of ten correctional chaplains who work with Jewish, female, inmates and a comparison group of ten chaplains who work with Protestant, female inmates were interviewed. The study determined the reasons for and benefits of religious observance among these inmates and included assisting in dealing with fear, providing a sense of peace, and deceitful motives for personal gains. Religious practice also assisted inmate populations in healing from trauma, improving self-respect and self-esteem, building support systems, and additionally for Jewish, female inmates constructing or enhancing a sense of their religious identity.

The study found while the Protestant sample had a significant history of involvement in their churches, Jewish inmates typically had little, if any religious background or practice prior to their incarceration and these trends continued during incarceration for both groups. The study also explored if anti-religious or anti-Semitic biases played a part in their religious observance while incarcerated and found no instances of biases reported for either group of inmates. The study did; however, find anecdotal instances of anti-Semitism reported by Jewish, male chaplains, from correctional staff towards them, but none by Jewish, female chaplains.

Also explored was how working with these populations affected the chaplains personally, professionally, and in their religious lives, finding significant positive benefits for both study groups, which included a tendency to be less conservative in their views on the criminal justice system and more compassionate towards inmates and humanity in general. A history of trauma prior to this employment was noted in both study groups.