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Scrutiny of prison chaplaincy includes multi-faith options

16 February 2012

by a staff reporter

THE prison service is considering whether to change rules that dictate that the head of its chaplaincy service is always an Anglican.

The last Chaplain General, the Ven. William Noblett, retired at Christmas after ten years in post. The position is still vacant.

A spokesperson for the prison service said that it was “considering arrangements” for the position, but that no decisions had been made.

The Bishop to Prisons, the Rt Revd James Jones, Bishop of Liver­pool, is said to be unhappy at the proposals to drop the require­ment and allow chaplains of other faiths to head the service. His office said, however, that he was “working closely” with the prison service over the job description.

Prison chaplains can be of different religions and denomina­tions, but the 1952 Prison Act re­quires only that every prison have an Anglican chaplain.

Where there are enough prisoners of another faith, the Act allows for the appointment of another chaplain of that faith.

There are many chaplains of other faiths and Christian denominations in prisons, though frequently they are volunteers, or are visiting rather than paid posts. Apart from the Anglican chaplain in each of the 144 prisons in England and Wales, there are about 100 other Christian chap­lains, and some 200 full-time and part-time imams.

In a statement, Bishop Jones said: “The Church of England believes that the Chaplain General has an important role developing prison chaplaincy for the 21st century. Chaplains work for the rehabili­tation of offenders and build unique links between the prison and the wider community. They have a vital part to play in reducing re-offend­ing. Among the Chaplain General’s responsibilities is the deployment of Church of England chaplains in every prison, which is a requirement of the 1952 Prison Act. The Act also makes provision for the appoint­ment of other ministers at the Gov­ernor’s discretion. The Chaplain General leads in developing chap­laincy teams that meet the breadth of spiritual needs in the prison population.

“The Church of England is work­ing closely with senior officials of the National Offenders Manage­ment Service, looking at the role descrip­tion of the Chaplain General for a 21st-century chaplaincy.”

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