On The Guardian‘s Belief page, a former prisoner documents the power of religion and faith to foster group solidarity and personal reform within the prison system:

I have spent nearly 20 years of my life in and out of prison and at least 10 years behind a prison door. You would have thought that I would have chosen another profession because for me, crime certainly did not pay. My lack of faith in society, justice and God (whatever omnipotent power that may be) had me locked in a cell not just in body but in mind too.

When I first went to prison as a teenager I was asked in prison reception of my religious beliefs and I answered that I was an “atheist”. Even though I was brought up as a Muslim, in a devout Muslim family, the only reason I answered “atheist” was because in the early 90s, all Muslim prisoners were given a vegetarian diet, as halal meat was not available to them. So I chose sausages and chips and bacon butties over God and I guess I will burn for that. If I am ever stood before the highest judge of them all, to defend my actions I would say: “I was hungry your honour” and hope for the best.

Read the full article here.