The flagship publication from the Prison Reform Trust, Bromley Briefings, provides the latest statistics about prisons. It sheds light on the harsh realities faced by people in prison and the need for prayer. Here we explore some key statistics from the latest Bromley Briefings and discuss how to pray for people in prison.
OVERCROWDING AND STRAINED RESOURCES
According to Bromley Briefings, the prison system has been overcrowded since 1994. The report reveals that 74 of the 122 prisons (61%) in England and Wales are overcrowded.
Projections from the Ministry of Justice indicate that in the next four years, the prison population will rise by around 20,000 people.
Overcrowding reduces the availability of activities, staff and other resources leading to heightened tension and a challenging environment within prisons.
This is compounded by the ongoing issue of prison staff retention. A staggering 49% of prison officers leave their role in the service within three years. This lack of staff means that people in prison were unable to get out of their cells to get fresh air or access to legal photocopying and would not receive towels, medication nor underwear that fits. It can also prevent people accessing chapel services or PF programmes like Sycamore Tree.
Due to the staffing decline, 53% of people in prison spend at least 22 hours a day in their cells. This figure rises to 69% at the weekend
I am also more convinced than ever of the huge value PF volunteers provide to Chaplaincies generally through administration, Bible Studies, and
weekend service support. Chaplaincy teams are more stretched than ever. And so this support is much appreciated. Personally, I also find that it opens up great opportunities for one-to-one discussions with people in prison.
It is crucial that we pray for improved conditions and increased support for people in prison. We must pray for more prison staff to help meet the needs of the increasing prison population. Let us also intercede for the current prison staff who are working in these challenging conditions
MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS
Bromley Briefings highlights that 51% of men and 76% of women in prison experienced mental health problems. A recent Justice Committee report described current provision as inadequate, disjointed and incoherent. Self-inflicted deaths are over six times more likely in prison than in the general population. More than two out of five people in prison surveyed reported experiencing thoughts that they would ‘be better off dead’ or had considered hurting themselves in the preceding two weeks. Almost one in five (19%) reported experiencing these thoughts every day.
This prevalence of mental health conditions— including depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders—underscores the importance of prayer for the emotional wellbeing of those in prison. Our free Prayer Line service often receives calls from people in prison asking us to pray for their mental health. We have the privilege to prayerfully support them each day.
Bromley Briefings reports that people who receive family visits are 39% less likely to reoffend than those who do not.
People in prison were particularly keen for a more consistent promotion of family contact.
Only one fifth of people in prison received weekly visits from loved ones.
For many in prison, phone calls are the only consistent contact they have with their loved ones. But the cost of calls is incredibly high. During the working week, a 30-minute call to a landline costs £3.10—the equivalent call to a mobile costs £6.88.
Angel Tree and Angel Tree Mother’s Day support families, which is vital. Please pray for these programmes and for the families of people in prison. Where there is hurt and separation, ask God to bring forgiveness and understanding.
Bromley Briefings sheds light on the realities faced by individuals in prison, calling for a compassionate response from us as people of faith. By praying for improved conditions, mental health support, and family connections, we can actively participate in bringing about positive change within the prison system. We can contribute to the restoration of lives and communities affected by crime.
This article was first published in our quarterly magazine in:sight. You can sign up to receive our free magazine by post or via email by visiting prisonfellowship.org.uk/subscribe
Read the Bromley Briefings for yourself HERE.