These authors say that:
"The jail cell conversion from “sinner” to true believer may be one of the best examples of a “second chance” in modern life, yet the process receives far more attention from the popular media than from social science research. In this article, we explore prisoner conversions from the perspective of narrative psychology. Drawing on 75 original, life story interviews with prisoner “converts,” we argue that the conversion narrative “works” as a shame management and coping strategy in the following ways. The narrative creates a new social identity to replace the label of prisoner or criminal, imbues the experience of imprisonment with purpose and meaning, empowers the largely powerless prisoner by turning him into an agent of God, provides the prisoner with a language and framework for forgiveness, and allows a sense of control over an unknown future."¬ Maruna, S., Wilson, L. & Curran, K. (2006). Why God is often found behind bars: Prison Conversion and the Crisis of Self-Narrative. Research in Human Development, 3, 161 - 184. (pdf)
"Being imprisoned can cause individuals to see the fragility of the web of meaning they previously took for granted. This realization can lead to reflection on issues of existence, life, and death, which are usually bracketed from everyday consideration."
Cohen and Tayler observe:
"One’s identity, one’s personality system, one’s coherent thinking about himself depend upon a relatively familiar, continuous, and predictable stream of events. In the Kafkaesque world of the booking room, the jail cell, the interrogation room, and the visiting room, the boundaries of the self collapse." ¬ Cohen, S., & Taylor, L. (1972). Psychological survival: The experience of long-term imprisonment. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin. (p. 39)
Most serial killers come from severely abusive childhoods, typically suffering physical/sexual/emotional abuse in the home or extended family. Dissociative identity disorder arises only through severe, early, prolonged traumas commencing in early childhood—usually physical or sexual abuse. Whereas females with DID tend to be self-abusive, and many seek therapy, males with DID are more likely to be violent, to commit crimes, and to be incarcerated.
A very high percentage of survivors of childhood abuse were raised and abused in highly religious families. A significant percentage report that when, as children, they told their mothers that they were being abused, their mothers merely prayed over them or instructed them to pray. Some alter personalities who are devoutly religious, whether or not the host (chief) personality is religious. The religion-of-choice may not be the religion in which the child was raised. Thus, one alter personality may carry all of the religious 'hopes' for the personality system.
Some of the reported conversions during incarceration may result from more prolonged emergence of religious identities or an identity-consensus adoption of religious 'hope' bargaining.
dissociative identity disorder, jail, conversion, religion, Jeffrey Dahmer