During November we remember and pray for prisoners. • One of the things we are asked to do as Christians is to visit and support those who are in prison. • Prisons are not supposed to be holiday resorts, they are not nice places to be inside. • But whatever anyone has done, God does not give up on them.
In all prisons there are chaplaincy teams: a team of people from different faiths who work together to make a real different to the lives of the prisoners and staff.
Reverend Foster is part of the chaplaincy team at Whitemoor high security prison in Cambridgeshire. • He says one way the chaplaincy team helps prisoners is by listening. “We listen to people’s problems; sometimes we can help, but other times they just want to offload, and they can offload onto us.”
The chaplaincy offers prisoners the chance to take part in courses about restorative justice. • “It’s about taking responsibility for what we have done. We might call it going to confession – they would call it ‘fessing up to stuff’. But whatever you call it, the important thing is to be truly sorry, and to realise the huge effect that crime has had on others.”
During the courses victims of crime are invited into the prison to tell their stories to the prisoners. “Often it helps the person who’s been on the receiving end come to terms with what’s happened to them.” Restorative justice emphasises repairing the harm caused by crime.
Mr Cawkwell is the prison governor at Whitemoor. He says he wouldn’t dream of running the prison without the chaplaincy team; they play a very important role. Some of the prisoners don’t trust the prison officers, but they do trust the chaplains.
“I was raised a Catholic – I was an altar boy. One crucial thing Catholicism taught me was not to judge people – and that’s something that remains important in my life today.” Mr Cawkwell, Governor of Whitemoor Prison
In Jesus time adultery was punishable by being stoned to death. When a group of people brought a woman who had committed adultery to him and asked if she should be stoned, he said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!“ (John 8:7)
“I have never met a bad person in prison. Lots of people have done bad things. But I have never met anyone who we have given up on…And I have learnt from over twenty-six years working in the prison service that people commit serious crimes for various reasons. And do you know what, any of us could find our self in prison. Things go wrong in people's lives.” Danny McAllister
Dear God, You sent your son not to condemn but to save the world. Help me not to judge others. We pray for all those in prison today. Send your Holy Spirit to comfort and support them, and the staff and chaplaincy teams working in our prison service. Amen