Prison Chaplaincy

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					Prison Chaplaincy - What we offer
Care of Prisoners The key aims of the Scottish Prison Service are the custody of prisoners, their good order, their care, and opportunities to equip them for life after liberation. Chaplains contribute most obviously to the pastoral care of prisoners and, if prisoners respond positively to the care and opportunities offered, it follows that good order is likely and the temptation to escape is reduced. Chaplains therefore contribute to the attainment of SPS aims. Care is not limited to prisoners, but is also available to staff. Prison chaplains are part of a care team with prison officers, doctors, psychologists, mental health nurses and social workers. Unlike other disciplines, which focus on particular needs, chaplains are able to take a holistic approach towards prisoners and their relationships. They are also thoroughly ecumenical within the Christian faith and willing to work closely with prisoners and leaders of other faiths. The virtual absence of barriers to chaplains' work and territory can seem threatening to some specialists, but more often they are welcome as a comforting and encouraging presence. Much work is done to help prisoners find sound reasons for self respect and hope. A chaplain may spend a few minutes or several hours with a prisoner on remand or when newly convicted, when self-esteem is at its least and fear and risk of self-harm are at their peak. Time is also given when prisoners suffer bereavement or have difficulty coming to terms with the many losses associated with imprisonment. This seldom begins in a formal setting and usually arises through relationships developed out of casual contacts in corridors, workshops, offices and halls. Links are fostered with families and churches, if a prisoner agrees, to build a foundation of relationships and care during a sentence and beyond liberation. Many churches are willing to make unconditional offers of care - for example, gathering presents at Christmas to be distributed to prisoners' families. This helps reduce their feelings of isolation and rejection. Sense of Life In spite of the common negative image of prisons, they are remarkably positive places. The background of so many prisoners is such that we can't say they have gone off the rails; many of them are from such backgrounds they have never ever seen the rails. In that light, spending time with a prisoner who is trying to make sense of life is a privilege and a vital function. Much time may be spent in this role with longer-term prisoners and, in some prisons, chaplains' auxiliaries are engaged to befriend and support selected prisoners by regular, private and confidential meetings. There are opportunities for Christian education, and chaplains may tutor prisoners undertaking correspondence courses. Some prison chaplaincies also offer a wide-ranging programme of Christian stimulation, which includes invitations to eminent Christian speakers and to music and drama groups. The aim is not especially to evangelise, but to offer prisoners challenging or encouraging ideas in a context of supportive care and respect for them as human beings. Worship in Prison To anyone aware of the Acts of the Apostles, worship in prison will come as no surprise. Peter and Paul, Silas and many of the first followers of Jesus were imprisoned. While they were "doing their stretch" they would often pray, sing psalms and preach the good news of Jesus. Similarly those who are doing a prison sentence today can find it within themselves to express their faith, to turn to God in prayer and to seek the opportunity of worshipping with others as members of the community of faith. Imprisonment does not necessarily lessen the urge to pray; indeed for many it becomes more intense. Statute The right to practise one's religion is protected in statute: there need to be very clear reasons why a prisoner is prevented from attending worship. Where these reasons pertain it is possible for the chaplain to meet with a prisoner on an individual basis and to share together in an act of worship. Statement of Faith Attending worship can be a courageous step. Those who do so can expect to be called names or labelled. To come to the chapel is often in itself a statement of faith and for some it is part of a search for a new start in life. No-one can tell exactly what motivates people to seek to come to a service: there may be many reasons, such as taking time out. Whatever it is that brings people along, in worship there is the opportunity both to hear the Gospel proclaimed and to celebrate.

Common Ground Worship can also be one of the few occasions when prisoners of different categories, remand and convicted, meet together in one place. Necessarily, clear supervision is provided by the prison staff, yet for all that, there is something that the many barriers that exist in prison between prisoners and prisoners, and prisoners and staff, are not as significant as the common ground we share in worship. Variety in Worship Occasions for worship in prisons are numerous. Most commonly there are two services on a Sunday, one a Church of Scotland service, the other a Roman Catholic Mass (times and days may vary.) There may also be an Episcopal service. Surprisingly there can also be an enormous freedom to experiment with different ways of worshipping prison, and beyond Sunday services, worship may also happen in the settings of fellowship or study groups, in halls and in prisoners' cells. Sometimes there will be opportunities for prisoners and staff to participate in services from reading the Bible to singing in the choir. During Advent or in Lent a study group might prepare a contribution for Christmas worship or a Good Friday meditation. Chapel Resources Resources for worship are largely well provided, most establishments have a chapel or quiet room, with a musical instrument, liturgical furnishings, Bibles and hymn books. Wherever possible the chapel is reserved for the particular purpose of worship, and it is a unique space within the prison, representing a very real sanctuary for those who visit. The Sacraments The three main denominations practise a sacramental ministry with arrangements for the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass and Holy Communion. Occasionally there will be a baptism, or the anointing of the sick or an act of reconciliation. Sometimes there are ecumenical services and impromptu services, such as a memorial service, when a prisoner is unable to attend a funeral or on particular anniversaries. Other Faiths Chaplaincy teams are responsible for ensuring that members of faiths other than the Christian faith have the opportunity to practise their religion. Chaplains will make arrangements for visits from religious leaders for the provision of worship. This is especially important during festivals and on holy days. Prisoners' Week "Prisoners' Week" was begun to encourage Christians to focus on what is happening in prisons today. Each year in November a poster and an information and prayer leaflet are produced to promote the message of Prisoners' Week. Prisoners' Week is for:       prisoners ex-prisoners their families the victims of crime prison staff and all those working in this field, whether paid or voluntary

Prisoners' Week literature is distributed to Christians in Scotland, England, Wales and Canada. Various events are held in Churches and prisons each November to highlight the tragedy of ALL those affected by crime and punishment.

Chaplaincies Task Group
What we do    Keep before the wider Church the necessity, relevance and importance of ministry to prisoners, their families and prison staff. Promote consistency and integrity in the delivery of the Church's mission in prisons. Support chaplains by gathering resources, visiting them in establishments and offering encouragement and representation in specific cases.


Comment on matters affecting chaplaincy such as recruitment and training.