Wednesday, 12 July 2006

General Synod: question about Prisons

Updated Thursday - see below

As background to this question, the Church of England Newspaper published a news report last week headlined Prison ministry axed.
There was also a report in the Telegraph Prison service axes Christian course and an opinion item also.
The CEN article was mentioned during the debate on the report of the business committee, at the start of the synod meeting last Friday, and it also led to an additional question being raised, which was answered on Tuesday morning. There were also several supplementary questions. The whole sequence can be listened to here.

The Ven Alan Hawker (Bristol) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:

Q: In the light of recent press reports about the ending of particular Christian programmes for prisons, will the House of Bishops, in consultation with the Mission and Public Affairs Council, ascertain the facts and make representations to the Home Secretary?

The Bishop of Worcester as the Bishop to HM Prisons to reply.

A: I thank the Archdeacon and Mrs Ruoff who first raised the issue for the opportunity to correct the very inaccurate reports in the Church of England Newspaper about the ending of the Inner Change Programme at HMP Dartmoor. These reports suggest that it is becoming more difficult or even impossible to gain approval for specifically Christian programmes in prisons. I have consulted with the Chaplain General, who is of course a member of the Synod and with us this morning.

The Inner Change programme failed on five different counts to obtain approval under the Prison Services ‘Effective Intervention’ Criteria. For instance objective research on re-offending rates sadly did not confirm the claims made for the programme: experience of the programme in the USA has been mixed, and there have been concerns about its ability to integrate with general chaplaincy provision. Contrary to what is said in the CEN, the Chaplain General was not involved in the decision, which was made by the Area Manager after the usual panel meeting. The same panel and the same Area Manager have accredited a number of specifically Christian programmes including Kairos. Many specifically Christian programmes are approved and taking place in prisons – Alpha probably being the best known. The idea that chaplains have to sign a ‘multi-faith covenant’ is simply not true.

The Standing Committee of the House of Bishops is currently planning the agenda for the October meeting of the House and I have been asked by the Archbishop of York to propose an outline for a session or sessions on the criminal justice system. I am sure that the position of the Christian faith and practice in prisons would be part of that discussion. I am in regular touch with Christopher Jones and the members of the Mission and Public Affairs Division, and shall be glad with him to supply any necessary briefing if the Private Member’s Motion which has just been tabled comes to be debated.

The pressures in the prison system, with record numbers incarcerated, and the variety of religious faiths represented, present a hugely challenging environment for the Service in general and the Chaplaincy in particular. Despite these pressures, the Chaplain General has enabled the production of policies which maintain the proper balance between maintaining that which is specifically Christian and enabling proper provision for other faith communities so that the needs of their members can be met. I would wish to assure him and all chaplains of our support and our prayers in their demanding task, and Synod of the continued validity of Christian witness in prisons.


Andrew Carey has responded to Bishop Selby: you can read it here. And there is a news item also: Prisons policy defended.

And Andrew has further comments about this on his blog here.

And, in relation to the Telegraph coverage, there is a letter from the Director General of the Prison Service here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 July 2006 at 10:01pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: General Synod

So the CEN article was another example of conservative scaremongering, of a self-understanding which assumes the role of persecuted champion of the faith regardless of whether there's evidence to support that assertion. Depressing, but hardly unexpected.

Posted by: mynsterpreost on Thursday, 13 July 2006 at 8:31am BST

The CEN has a permanent persecution complex - it can't come to terms with the fact that the Church has become marginalised largely because of the line it takes and which they support. Yesterday's opinions for yeasterday's people.

I suppose thats what comes of being 'counter-cultural' in a reactionary direction.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 13 July 2006 at 11:07am BST

I am not a fan of Andrew Carey but I believe the issue of christian faith in prisons, and fath centred regimes, needs careful inspection, and ctitiquing from those who pursue a liberal as well as a conservative agenda.

I fear the leadership of the Prison Service Chaplaincy has an agenda run by the glossy magazines, objectives, targets etc. of Prison Service management rather than being a prophetic challenge to the iniquitous British prison system.

I am sure Christian based life courses can contribute to rehabilitation of SOME offenders.

Posted by: James on Saturday, 15 July 2006 at 11:23pm BST

Thanks for this.
I am wondering if there is something we could do, or begin to think of doing, as a witness of the iniquitous British prison system ? It concerns me very much.

Posted by: Laurence gofalus Roberts on Sunday, 16 July 2006 at 2:33pm BST

I have been thinking of the reports on the Inner Change program. They object to being turned-down. None of us like that.

What has come to mind , is the thought that fundamentalist & fundamentalist-inclined people, seem to be chaffing against structures of decision-making, accoutability & authority; & indeed, attacking and undrmining them, whenever a decsion is made with which they are not happy.

Examples :

* when they were out argued, & out-voted in a democratic body, like the GC of ECUSA, both this year & last time. Also, the New Hampshire diocesan process which brought forth and Consecrated Gene Robinson.

* when Church & State appointed Jefrey John, a group apparently led by Philip Giddings launched a campaign against the appointment, with financial threats against the diocese & Bishop of Oxford, if their demands were not implemented. A treasonous campaign it was too, in the State Church.

* I think the rot, may have set in, when, for the first time one group were offered their own (airborn) bishops; & a hermetically-sealed area, where in fantasy, they could be preserved from the impurity to be wrought by women minisiters, whom they dubbed 'priestesses'. Up until then, since the Elizabethan Settlement, everyone had rubbed along under their diocesan structures & bishop. The generosity of this arrangment (-not to mention compesation to enable the most consistent to go to (or in some cases, daytrip) to Rome), has not been conspicuously recognised by this group, and indeed, I believe they have used their sanctuary as a base to work against the ministry of women. All mention of " the two integrities" having evapourated soon as the ink was dry. Shame that--I think'the two integrites' was a beautiful & useful concept. And why limit it to two ?!

Perhaps you can think of further examples of how structures of decision-making & accountability,are undermined, by guerilla tactics in prisons, synods & General Conventions by those who disapprove of the decisions, though validly arrived at, by due process ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 22 July 2006 at 2:30pm BST
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