Chaplaincies in European jails have to meet the challenges of a growing religious diversity, while those of different Christian denominations are increasingly drawn into cooperating with one another and integrating the various religious traditions that they encounter into their practical work.
Beside such common features, there is, however, a considerable variety in the space given to religion and to the work of chaplains from one country to another, and even from one jail to another, explains James A. Beckford (University of Warwick) in his introduction to several articles on the topic, published in the Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions (January–March). Increasingly, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists have been hired by prisons in European countries in recent years, notes Irene Becci (Bielefeld University). This means that chaplains are no longer required to fulfill some roles to the same extent as earlier, and thus can focus on more specific work, while relaxing some of their denominational characteristics.
In some countries, chaplains continue to belong to Christian churches, while visitors from other faith groups are allowed to work in such settings, but not as full-time chaplains. Mainstream chaplains visit inmates of all religious beliefs, or even those without beliefs, and hold interconfessional or even sometimes multireligious services, as they attempt to have some knowledge on other religious traditions, writes Mallory Schneuwly-Purdie (University of Lausanne) in her research on Muslim visitors to prisons in Switzerland. In contrast, Muslim volunteers coming to visit prisoners are limited to their own faith group and usually have no opportunity to see inmates of other religious traditions. In their comparative research on Muslims in Norwegian and Danish prisons, Inger Furseth (KIFO, Oslo) and Lene Maria van der Aa Kühle (Aarhus University) come to the conclusion that prison policies do not necessarily correspond with general religious policies in the respective countries, in contrast with findings on other countries.
In Denmark, prison imams are paid by the prisons, and there are plans to hire a growing number of them in the near future, partly as an element of a policy for preventing Islamist radicalization. In Norway, where the Lutheran Church has a relatively large number of prison chaplains, Muslim communities are expected to cover the costs of prison visitors. In England and Wales, there are today around 40 full-time Muslim chaplains, in addition to more than a hundred working in a parttime capacity, reports Stephen Hunt (University of the West of England). This is one of the results of the prison chaplaincy reforms instigated since July 2001, while in previous decades non-Christian inmates depended on volunteer visiting ministers who themselves worked under full-time Christian chaplains.
(Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, 10 rue Monsieur-le-Prince, 75006 Paris, http://assr.revues.org)