Date of Conferral



Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)




Sharon Xuereb


Recidivism rates are high in the United States. According to the Bureau of Justice

Statistics, within 5 years of being released, 77% of ex-prisoners are arrested, with 37%

arrested within the first 6 months and 57% arrested within the first year. Past research has

indicated that religiosity functions as a protective factor in relation to criminal behaviors

that is consistent across genders and developmental periods. The purpose of this

qualitative study was to examine Christianity as a protective factor against offending. The

theoretical framework of the study, self-determination theory, with its focus on

individuals’ growth tendencies based on self-motivation and personality integration, was

relevant to the impact of ex-offenders’ autonomous motivation to remain devoted to

Christianity. The research question addressed how conversion to Christianity while in

prison contributes to an offense-free lifestyle after release. A series of interviews with ex

offenders was conducted, and emerging themes were developed from the transcriptions

and notes taken during and following each interview. Although the widespread view of

Christianity to the participants initially was negative, through either their upbringing,

influence, or impression from other Christians, their conversion to Christianity while in

prison not only gave them an entirely different worldview to treat others differently after

being released, but also have a desire to share the gospel to others. This study may

contribute to positive social change by providing more information on the impact of

Christianity on ex-offenders who decide to make a lifestyle change while in prison.

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