AN ACADEMIC who analysed thousands of research studies, looking at links between religion and criminal activity, has concluded that, in the “overwhelming majority of cases”, practising a faith reduces the likelihood of committing a crime.
The criminologist Byron Johnson, a professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, admitted that the link was not surprising, but said that specialists in the field of crime had never before been interested in exploring it further.
Professor Johnson analysed every study between 1944 and 2010 that measured the possible effect of religion on crime. He found 273 such studies. As he reports in his book More God, Less Crime, even though the authors of the research used different methods, and assessed different groups of people, 90 per cent of the studies found that more religiosity resulted in less crime.
He said: “My grandmother would say that this book doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know. But, to many out there, especially in policy circles or academia, they’ll be surprised that the research results are that strong.”
He points to the example of the “Boston Miracle”, in which faith-based groups initiated measures that successfully brought together clerics and police in a co-operative effort to stem gang violence in the city. Violent crime fell by about 50 per cent in two years as a result of the initiative.
Prisoners who converted in prison, however, were just as likely to return to crime as those who didn’t, Professor Johnson found. He told Christianity Today magazine: “Conversion, in my opinion, is only a first step. It’s naïve to think that someone who has a born-again experience won’t encounter problems once they leave prison. Spiritual transformation is an ongoing process. . . I see spiritual development and prisoner rehabilitation going hand in hand.”