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Migration and Home Affairs
Expert opinion

RAN PRISONS Religious counselling, training and interfaith dialogue in prison, online meeting 06-07 October 2020


Publication date
22 February 2022
Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs


Religion and religious counselling can play a major role in offender rehabilitation and reintegration. The opportunity to practice one’s religion in prison and to have access to a representative of this religion is a human right allowed in prison.

The RAN PRISONS working group meeting on 6–7 October 2020 considered religious practice in prison, interfaith dialogue, the roles of imams and other religious leaders, and how prison staff can be trained to understand religion and extremism.

This paper presents the input of participants and experienced practitioners at the meeting and underlines the following three points.

  1. For imams, chaplains and other religious counsellors, preserving confidentiality is key for one-to-one religious counselling. If confidentiality is not preserved, religious counselling risks coming to a halt.
  2. Religious counsellors form trustful relationships with inmates and should therefore not form part of risk assessment or multi-agency discussions (this is directly related to point 1). During such processes, religious counsellors might be expected to share more information than they would like to, and inmates might become sceptical and distrustful of them.
  3. Interfaith dialogue and other interfaith encounters can build a bridge to the outside world and prepare inmates for release: they can foster an inclusive space that is open to dialogue, critical thinking and exchange. Interfaith exchanges can help to prevent extremist, polarised, ‘us vs. them’ mentality, and they can help foster a safer prison environment.

This paper summarises the main outcomes of the working group meeting: (1) the highlights of the discussion, (2) recommendations, and (3) inspiring practices and proposes possible follow-up actions.

RAN PRISONS Religious counselling cover


22 FEBRUARY 2022
RAN PRISONS Religious counselling, training and interfaith dialogue in prison
(260.06 KB - PDF)