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Stand in the light: Prisons Week 2013

Churches across England and Wales are being invited to get to know their local prison.

Prisons week The invitation comes from the organisers of this year’s national Prisons Week, who are encouraging more volunteers to support schemes run in their local prison, and with prisoners’ families.

This year’s Prisons Week runs from Sunday 17 November to Saturday 23 November 2013. The week will focus on the impact of the voluntary sector in working to reduce re-offending rates, through mentoring, support for prisoners’ families and contributing to public policy. Resources are based around Malachi 4:2 'But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.'

The Revd Alison Tyler, chair of the organising committee, said, 'When someone is sent to prison, their whole family serves the sentence with them. It’s especially hard for the children, who are often separated from their parents by long distances, and seldom get to see them.

'We want to encourage people to consider how they might support the many organisations working with prisoners and ex-offenders, as well as their families.'

The most recent figures released show that 200,000 children were affected by the imprisonment of a parent in 2009 – more than experienced their parents’ divorce.

With over 85,000 people in custody in England and Wales, and re-offending rates remaining stubbornly high, the social impact of crime and imprisonment means the future of a generation is at risk.

Faith groups in England and Wales have long been involved in prisons, both through prison chaplaincies and via charities providing a wide range of activities and support. These groups are now responding to the changes recommended by the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, as part of the agenda to reduce re-offending.

Prisons Week was formed in 1975 to pray for and raise awareness of the needs of prisoners and their families, victims of offenders, prison staff and all those who care. It consists of representatives of Christian denominations and Christian organisations and is endorsed by (among others) the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, the Free Churches group and PACT (Prison Advice and Care Trust).

As well as celebrating past success, the campaign aims to encourage more volunteer participation in prison-related projects, challenging people to say ‘I’m in.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nick Holtham said, 'Prisons Week gets us thinking about three groups of people: prisoners, who are locked away and not visible to most of us; ex-prisoners who live in the community alongside us but who are also often invisible - the impact of imprisonment will stay with them for life. 

'There are also their families, who often pay a very high price for their relative's offending. What are prisons for and what we want them to do? How are we neighbours? This is a week to support the great work by chaplaincies, churches, volunteers and Christian groups in prison across the UK.'

For information about the ‘I’m in’ campaign and further resources visit www.prisonsweek.org

Baptist Times, 15/11/2013
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