Right now, my heart is breaking for men and women in prison.
Most are spending 23 hours each day in their cells. They eat meals in their cells, complete educational activities in their cells, worship and pray in their cells. They get out for about 45 minutes a day for a phone call, a shower or a walk outside. But not all these things every day.
How hard must this be? These men and women are effectively experiencing prolonged solitary confinement, normally reserved as a punishment for disruptive prisoners and strictly limited to 21 days.
But this is vital for the protection of both staff and prisoners against the coronavirus.
Prison is meant to be a place of rehabilitation, of hope and another chance at a brighter and better future. But this health crisis has created a much harsher sentence.
Most Prison Fellowship volunteers are not currently allowed into prison, and we feel the loss of that ‘ministry of presence’ as an organisation. Yet we are not passive! We know that soon our programmes and that loving presence of our volunteers—showing Christ’s love in a thousand small ways—will be more essential than ever.
Men and women in prison are sorely missing regular human contact
and friendship. They desperately need God’s comfort and healing in
their lives. And so our Chaplaincy volunteers will be ready to offer that
spiritual support immediately once restrictions are lifted.
This Christmas, Angel Tree will take on an even greater significance, as parents try to repair and rebuild relationships with their children who have suffered by not being able to visit and have that all-important contact.
We are working hard to create multiple contingency plans ensuring that, whatever the situation this Christmas, thousands of children can still receive gifts from their mum or dad in prison.
Sycamore Tree will restart as soon as volunteers are allowed back into prisons, to offer men and women the opportunity to deeply consider their past offending behaviour and choose to believe a different path is possible. We have been offering tutors refresher training and training up new group facilitators to be fully prepared for when the gates reopen.
In the meantime, every single week we receive huge piles of letters from our volunteers and from their penfriends in prison. What a gift those connections are! Letter writers in prison are anxiously asking after the health of their volunteer penfriend, and exchanging mutual support.
And so we are boosting our offering—revamping and creating new Letter Link flyers and posters for prisons so that many more become aware of the opportunity to make a connection with someone on the outside.
Let me tell you that we are not going anywhere! For over 40 years, we have obeyed God’s call to show Christ’s love to men and women in prison. And we remain dedicated to that call.
But we need your help. Like many organisations, we are struggling. Although many supporters like you are remaining faithful in their giving, income from our trust partners has fallen as they turn to support other activities impacted by Covid-19. We are dipping into reserves that exist for difficult times like this. But they will not last long.
I want you to know that our desire is not just to survive this crisis, but to come through it stronger than ever—not for our own sake, but because we are desperately aware of just how much we’ll be needed once the lockdown lifts in prisons.
God has not left our prisons! Jesus still walks the landings and wings. He is there with every prisoner struggling with addiction and mental health issues, with every woman who doubts her own self-worth, with every man wrestling with anger, disappointment and grief, every parent desperate to see their children, and every person wondering if there is still hope.
You and I are Prison Fellowship, and we are committed to our calling. Please will you help us emerge from this period of national crisis ready to support those suffering in our prisons?
Your gift today will help ensure that we are better prepared than ever before to bring hope to those in our prisons for many years to come.
Make a donation
Your gift will help us support men and women in prison, through the faithful presence of our volunteers, and through our programmes: Sycamore Tree, Angel Tree and Letter Link.
If you would like to set up a regular gift, you can do so by Direct Debit through the website, or by filling out this Standing Order form and returning it to us. Thank you so much for your generosity!