Archbishop in prison

Posted: 24 April 2015 in Prisons
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WelbyJustin Welby gets banged up for crimes against secularism? Not this time. He was in HMP Brixton yesterday, along with 120 guests as a guest of Prison Fellowship to talk about restorative justice, victim awareness and prisoner support.

He said there has been a long association between the church and prisons. Sometimes in both senses of the word. (Followed by rye laughter.) The Church has been involved with prison reform for many years, and places chaplains into every prison. He understands that the Government have to make difficult choices, and that the prison management have to make decisions they’d rather not make. But it is easy to underestimate the contribution that faith communities are making up and down the country to life in prisons. In particular what Prison Fellowship is doing with Sycamore Tree (victim awareness), Angel Tree (keeping in touch with kids though presents) and Letter Link (letter writing to isolated prisoners).  Afterwards, an Oxford University researcher commented that ~200,000 children were blighted by having one parent incarcerated.  That’s a larger number than the number of children effected by divorce.

The Archbishop reflected on Easter, that he appreciated more than before of the sense of hope it gives. And this is the message that is being given inside prisons. Hope for genuine forgiveness, lives being turned around, and ultimately, the restoration that comes from faith in Jesus Christ. I was surprised he was quite so explicit about Christian faith, as the event was not a Christian one, and not all the speakers were of faith. Perhaps he assumed it was. Even so, it was clear from all the speakers, religious or otherwise, that the turnaround for prisoners has to start deep. And the support they need for that, from the prison staff and from volunteers needs to be up-close-and-personal.

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