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Week for packed prisons

16 November 2012

by a staff reporter

A WEEK of prayer for prisoners, and those working to support them, begins on Sunday, marked by a special edition of BBC TV's Songs of Praise. Prisons Week organisers ask for prayer, and provide resources for offenders, victims, chaplains, and prison officers (prisonsweek.org).

The latest figures published by the Howard League for Penal Reform showed that, this month, the prison system in the UK was holding 6166 men and women above capacity. Many prisoners are now held in private prisons, and the Government has announced that four more prisons in the north of England are to be privatised.

The director of the League, Frances Crook, said: "The Government will seek to deflect criticism of its prison-privatisation programme by excluding G4S from the next stage of the bidding process; but the principle of awarding lucrative contracts to private companies running prisons on the cheap remains unchallenged. This is still a mistake of Olympic proportions.

"Something as important as taking away someone's freedom should only be done by the state, answerable to taxpayers, rather than by international private security firms, answerable only to their shareholders."

Prisons Week is now recognised globally. The charity African Prisons Project is using the week to highlight its work in Ugandan prisons, which, it says, are some of the most overcrowded in the world.

Curate visits George Blake. The Revd Patrick Butler, an Assistant Curate from Emmanuel Church, Stoughton, in Guildford, flew out last week to meet his father in Moscow - the spy George Blake. It was Mr Blake's 90th birthday. Mr Blake has lived in Russia since he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966. Mr Butler has been in touch with his father for the past 25 years. He told The Sunday Telegraph that he and his brothers have a good relationship with Mr Blake.


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