Hope in prison despite chaos

by
16 November 2006

Inside job: a prisoner making prison gates in the steel workshop, an image by Andy Aitchison from a photographic exhibition at the Howard League for Penal Reform in London ANDY AITCHISON

Inside job: a prisoner making prison gates in the steel workshop, an image by Andy Aitchison from a photographic exhibition at the Howard League for P...

by Bill Bowder

A PRISONER in his 50s is being baptised in Norwich Prison on Sunday, the start of national Prisons Week. He will be the 18th prisoner to be baptised in the prison this year. The Revd Judith Wilson, the senior chaplain, said this week that she gives them “a good sploshing”.

“He had had drink problems, and he said coming into prison was a wake-up call. He came into chapel for something to do. He sat through Sunday services, and came to faith unbeknown to me,” Ms Wilson said.

“I tell them God is not just for prison but for life,” she said. “This is Christianity without masks. You can’t pretend in prison. When they are praying, you can almost hear the wheels whirring as they name those they love, and pray for each other and for those who are not coping in prison.”

There were plans to appoint a community chaplain next spring who could link prisoners and home. “I am fed up of people falling between the cracks when they leave,” she said.

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, who is Bishop to HM Prisons, said this week that, although there was much imaginative work in prisons, the system itself was out of control.

The Bishop, who is due to pray for the victims of crime at a service at HM Prison Blakenhurst on Sunday, said prisons held the highest concentrations of victims of crime. Many prisoners had been abused and subjected to violence.

“What is the point of arresting, convicting, and locking up more people if that results in more people re-offending on release?” he asked.

The founder-manager of Door UK, a charity that supports prisoners, Brian Sinclair, who had become a Christian when in prison, said that when he was released it was “very daunting walking into a church of 500 people”.

“Some people haven’t got anyone to be a friend to them, so they come out and get into the same old trouble.” The charity is to receive a Church Urban Fund grant.

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