Is ".2% Prison population" stat more than hearsay?
The stat we all keep hearing is that the percentage of atheists in the prison population is less than 1%. That is a pretty appealing statistic if true. I was about to use it in an email debate with a Christian friend but I'm having a bit of trouble backing it up. The closest I have come is this post:
This is a report that Rod Swift says he got from the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1997. Rod may be a perfectly honest, reliable source but what I am looking for is an official government document that contains this information. Lacking that, it would be nice to at least have numbers printed in a non-atheist publication. I haven't yet found either. If anyone has them, please post them. I searched www.bop.gov and "atheist" returned no results.
The closest I have come is this document from the UK on their prison population in England and Wales:
These numbers look much less nice for our argument. It shows non-religious being the fastest growing group in the population and making up 31.5%. That may be about equal to the number of non-religious people in the general population over there but I don't have that statistic handy. The bulk of that growth is amongst young offenders which makes sense and the non-religious prisoners have the shortest average sentences.
Page 16 is interesting. It shows a breakdown of that 31.5% as .1% agnostic, .2% atheist and the remainder simply not religious. So it is possible that we who are declared atheists tend to be more morally aware than those who just don't give a damn about whether or not gods exist.
Anyway, if we can't find a reliable source for this claim, we'd better stop making it. I would love to be able to back the claim up but until we can, we risk being called hypocrites for using hearsay to support our case while chastising Christians for believing an entire philosophy based on hearsay. So can anyone find a decent source?