Priority Questions: Religion, Education, and the Prisoner (Part 2)

by Robert T. Elton

In understanding the role of education in one’s life (and the responsibility to seek it) some of us educators have not found that the practicing of any religious faith decreases test scores or detrimentally affects cognitive development. In fact, those religiously inclined show a tendency to high-school equivalency—and post-secondary studies. This is an interesting fact, as it speaks to the psychological and emotional needs of these prisoners. The Regional Principal of ODOC mentioned to me around the first of the year that, “A significant religious experience is the greatest influence on reducing recidivism, then it’s a college degree, and then a vocational education.” He taught me a valuable lesson.

Religion is not antagonistic to education, but education is not free, God is, and thus, more accessible. It seems that as I watch men leave for service that they believe religion will help them more than will an education—or maybe they’re just not in a hurry, some may be here awhile (and faith just may help them get to know themselves better, too…) and I desire to be here to help with their GED’s when they break with God (that is, return from services).

Religion helps many of us. Arguably, one can make the case for harm or benefit. 4And that was the case to be made in this writing; to share the feelings and observations of an educator, to enlighten others to the priority questions above, and to empathize with those students who have to make that authentic choice among competing interests, due to scheduling conflicts: persevere. Maturity is an astounding trait of a habilitated mind. As such, the student possesses any final decisions as to whether any education vs. religious practice exists or not. We hope our students receive both. To the corrections educators, May the force be with you, Shalom, and Good Luck.

ROBERT ELTON, AAS (Bus), AA (PIgl. Ed.) BA(Sociology) Grad Student at Cal State, advocates Prisoner rights and is author of two novels:^ Fisherman’s Ne and Normal People, and is Co-Editor of Communicating Behind Bars: A Sociological Guide. Profits from novels go to scholarships for inmates:

He is imprisoned in Hominy, Ok.

WADE DuROY, B.Ed, Oklahoma State U., Class of’85. Editor and Corrections teacher at DCCC.


A legal standard and also an example of best practices

Among other beliefs and religious observances

Richard Schamhorst, Regional Principal ODOC, and Wade
DuRoy, CTI.

4 Think Inquisition or stoning. Greenwalt, Kent. Religion and the Constitution: Establishment and Fairness, V. II. Princeton U.P.” NJ (2008).

Leave a Reply

Priority Questions: Religion, Education, and the Prisoner (Part 1)


by Robert T. Elton

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” U.S. Const. Amend. 1 (1787).

As much discord as religious ideas produce, the doctrine of free exercise actually does great service to most all belief structures—considering its birth and adoption in history (this 1st Amendment works today, even in prisons). In the correctional setting, religion dominates the lives of many prisoners, if only because practicing religious beliefs remains one of few rights prisoners have once inside; education is another right (a statutory one). The comingling of education and religious ideologies—subsumed by criminal justice philosophy—produces a fervent mixture for all: a dance which must undergo careful choreography.1 In practice this surprisingly works itself out..!? The treatment of religion at Dick Conner Education Dept. is constitutional: a policy to not infringe, nor establish.

As corrections educators here at DCCC, our assumptions concerning expectations of adult learners are challenged once teaching begins; students do not robotically arrive and begin working out fractions or comprehension: after all, people have needs. We soon come to a realization that people must also be allotted time to practice their beliefs—the brief call to prayer for Muslims or the absence of the Christian for an entire day of class for service and worship.2

The various religious faiths thus draw time from lessons, and study, requiring patience and empathy from teachers for those believers. Yet this contrast is not the real dilemma, especially in the welcoming atmosphere provided by our supervisors here at DCCC.3 Yet, education and religion—while not generally antagonistic—are pitted against one another due to the scheduling of both activities at or around the same times. This is primarily due to the typical 8-hour day— the business day, not malice.

Leave a Reply