Should your Church join our Prisons Mission?

This project has now been under way for 3 years, and the report delivered to the CTiW 2017 Annual General Meeting can be read below. More churches are welcome to join and to help us expand this project, so perhaps it is now time for your church to consider whether it should also take part?

CTiW Prisons report to 2017 AGM

ABOUT THE PRISONS MISSION

In January 2014 CTiW launched its new Prisons Mission. Its objectives are:

• To provide support and assistance needed and identified by the chaplains
• For participants to practise their Christian Mission with a vulnerable and neglected section of our society
• For the congregation of the engaged churches to become better informed about prisons, prisoners, their families, prison staff, victims of crime and issues concerning the prison system.

Although three of the huge London prisons agreed to take part, it was decided to begin with only one for the purpose of the pilot. The Managing Chaplain of HMP Wandsworth, Rev Tim Bryan, and members of his multidenominational and multifaith team were keen to engage. Since then they have taught participants from the three member churches a great deal about the often strange and opaque workings of the prison system.

The Prisons Mission participants often found their early visits to the prison to be not a little daunting. Prisons are an unfamiliar, strange and hostile environment and it took time for them to become sufficiently comfortable to be of use and provide the services and support needed by the chaplains. Since then, some participants have completed training and security clearance to become mentors for the Befriending Programme.

This involves meeting an inmate regularly for several weeks before discharge on completion of a custodial sentence, meeting them “at the gate” and continuing for a time thereafter. The purpose is not to provide expert advice on housing, employment or other matters which are crucial to avoid reoffending, but to enable ex-offenders to discuss and work out with a trusted person how best to address these issues.

Other participants attend regular bible studies classes or attend worship with inmates in the prison chapel. Their presence, interest and support is appreciated by inmates and the participants have gained many insights.

The review and evaluation of the pilot showed modest but encouraging progress and it was decided to extend the initiative to two more London prisons and to add more churches of different denominations and traditions.

New churches have come forward and participants are currently introducing visits to HMPs Pentonville and Wormwood Scrubs.

A central feature of the CTiW Prisons Mission is that we do not merely seek volunteers from churches to visit inmates in prisons like patients in hospitals. The churches are required to engage with the Prisons Mission. They then support their 3-6 participants and expect their committees and congregations to receive regular reports about activities and concerns, thus allowing the engaged churches to become better informed about prisons, prisoners, their families, prisons staff and victims of crime.

At present nearly 86,000 men, women and children are held in British prisons “in our name”. We aim to ensure that they are not “out of sight and out of mind”.

Full details about this pilot project can be read at ctiw-prisons-mission-methodology1

For further information or to engage with the pilot project, member churches and potential representatives are asked to contact

John Plummer, johnplummer.audax@gmail.com Tel: 020 7272 1639