Comments: Prison Service: radio discussion

I seem to recall an article in the Church Times (?) not so long since on this one. One of the most difficult things for the scheme's proponents to admit was that it didn't seem to do what it said on the tin, and the the US claims of reduced reoffending etc etc were not borne out by the evidence.

There are two possible responses to that one, to say, "oh dear, we'd best look at what we're up to, then" or to shout "persecution/political correctness gone mad".

Given that Alpha operates within Britain's prisons, anyone who claims a bias against evangelical Christianity clearly needs their bumps felt (obscure reference to phrenology for transatlantic listeners).

Posted by mynsterpreost at Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 6:40pm BST

This issue raises a very serious issue about Prison Chaplaincy.

"He who pays the piper calls the tune." The Prison Service pays chaplains. This has serious consequences.

Significantly on this latest issue the Chaplain General has remained silent. Yet, he briefed the Prison authorities who closed this course. In these days of openness could his briefing be made generally available? If not, why not? Is it true that the Chaplain General was in Dartmoor Prison the day the course was closed. If so why?

In the thrust for equal recognition of faiths, and covenants for chaplains etc. is the Chaplain General responding to Christian thought - or rather Home Office glossies and their targets? Will chaplains’ covenants simply introduce a two tier chaplaincy?

Encouraging the 'poor' and marginalised into Christian community has been a part of Christianity from the beginning. This is not about Alpha Courses, it is about Christian community. What alternative Christian programmes to the rejected programme is the Prison Service Chaplaincy advocating?

I am told the Prison Service pays the Chaplain General more than bishops! The time has come for the Prison Service to pay faith communities to make chaplaincy provision, rather as they pay for educational and other services. Then the voice of the Church will be more freely heard and chaplains will be less shackled to the values of the prison service.

It has been said that the Chaplain General asks the Home Office press office for checking before he gives them! What does this say about the priest as a prophet and missioner? Sadly, the Chaplain General's office has not spoken clearly or unequivocally on behalf of christians on serious issues such as mission in prisons, prison conditions, prison suicides etc. On these issues, and perhaps on others, the response has been weak or disingenuous.

This issue is not an anti-evangelical one. It is a sad fact that the Prison Chaplaincy takes the lead from the Prison Service, not from Theology or the Gospel. Thus the pastoral and prophetic role of ministers of faith in prison is compromised.

What sets the agenda for the Anglican Chaplain General - and the (Prison Service paid) Christian Chaplaincy - the Prison Service aims and targets, or the Gospel?

The Bishop of Lewes calls for change. He is right to do so.


Posted by Simon Keeling at Friday, 4 August 2006 at 10:45am BST

I worked in the Prison Service for many years as a Chaplain. what we attempted was a multi faith ministry; this resonates with the conflicts at the cutting edge of world politics. The joy of Christianity and especially Anglicanism is its inclusiveness; we preach and live that inclusiveness. The issues which have always been at the top of my agenda in Prisons were justice equality, forgiveness and any programmes which were exclusive and too particular would fai to meet thereal needs of prisoners and be divisive rather than unifying.

Posted by Mike Dixon at Friday, 4 August 2006 at 8:59pm BST
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