This project looks at how Protestantism has influenced the Danish and American prison systems in different ways. Since its inception, the United States’ prison system has been tied to religious groups. The penitentiary system was created by the Quakers and Puritans and was based on the idea that, while a person was serving time, he or she should repent to God for their sins in solitude. Protestant ideals of grace and revenge have permeated the American consciousness. In contrast, the Danes largely rely on an open prison system in which inmates are allowed to work and maintain as normal life as possible while they are imprisoned. The Lutheran ideas of grace and empathy are reflected in this normalization theory. Data for the paper are drawn from six interviews with both Danish and American criminologists, prison chaplains and non-profit staff members who deal with prisoner reentry. I conclude that Lutheran and Calvinist views on grace and sin have affected how Americans and Danes think about crime and punishment. This, in turn, is reflected in their differing prison models.


Nurse, Anne

Second Advisor

Kammer, Chuck


Religious Studies; Sociology and Anthropology


Criminology | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Sociology of Religion

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Elizabeth C. Brewington