Get access

The religious conversion and race of a prisoner: Mock parole board members' decisions, perceptions, and emotions

Authors

  • Monica K. Miller,

    Corresponding author
    1. Criminal Justice Department, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, USA
    2. Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Social Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, USA
    • Correspondence should be addressed to Monica K. Miller, Criminal Justice Department, Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Social Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno, Mailstop 214; LP 105A, Reno, NV 89557, USA (e-mail: mkmiller@unr.edu).

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Samuel C. Lindsey,

    1. Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Social Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jennifer A. Kaufman

    1. Criminal Justice Department, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Parole board members (PBMs) decide whether to release inmates on parole. Decisions may be affected by in-group bias or stereotypes regarding religion and race. Two experiments investigated whether religious conversions/secular lifestyle changes and race affect mock PBMs' release decisions, emotions, and perceptions. Mock PBMs read a case file of an inmate who was eligible for parole and decided whether to grant parole. Study 1 manipulated whether the inmate had converted to Christianity or Islam, had a secular lifestyle change, or had no lifestyle change. Study 2 also varied race (African American or Caucasian). Race was not a significant factor, possibly because the manipulation was not strong enough to influence participants or because participants did not want to appear racist. Conversions to Islam and Christianity impacted the parole decision, and effects were mediated by believability of the conversion. Secular lifestyle changes affected release decisions and were mediated by perceptions of the inmate and beliefs about his likelihood of recidivism. Such inmates were the most likely to be released and were perceived most positively; their conversions were the most believable. Inmates who made no changes were perceived least positively, indicating that any lifestyle change is better than none. Importantly, no bias towards either religion (Islam, Christianity) was found. Furthermore, conversion type affected how scared PBMs were of the inmate, but this fear did not impact release decisions.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary