What a joy it was to celebrate our 40th anniversary a few weeks ago, in the beautiful Westminster Chapel! Hundreds of us gathered together from across England and Wales and beyond to praise God for His faithfulness, and to recommit to our vision of seeing every life in prison transformed.
The challenge before us remains great. In the 40 years since PF was founded, the prison population has more than doubled, from 40,000 in 1978, to 83,000 last year. Overcrowding is a problem for two thirds of our prisons. Nearly half of adults are reconvicted for another offence within one year of release. And violence is a heartbreaking reality in many prisons, with serious assault and rates of self-harm both at their highest recorded rates.
And so, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
We do not grow weary of doing good, because our God does not grow weary, and God is faithful to strengthen us, to give us His vision, compassion, and hope as we rise to the challenge before us.
On this 40th anniversary, we are renewing our commitment to this calling. Here are a few of the ways we will be doing that in the coming years:
PF was established and still exists to enable the church to fulfil its mandate to minister to those in prison. In the coming years, we plan to deepen our relationship with churches in ways that bless them and help them answer the call to serve those in prison.
We know that through God’s continued grace and the amazing efforts of our volunteers, we will see the number of programmes we deliver and prisoners we reach continue to grow. Having consulted chaplains across our prisons last year, we want to extend our work in this area, in particular by connecting those who are going through the gate with like-minded support organisations, and by developing the skills of trusted volunteers to come alongside those in prison who are dealing with loss and bereavement.
Lastly, we are excited to be developing a strategic partnership with an organisation called Kintsugi Hope, which exists to create safe and supportive spaces for those experiencing mental and emotional health challenges. You can read more about this here!
And so thank you. Our celebration last month was a stunning reminder of just how many people share in the vision to show Christ’s love to men and women in prison by coming alongside them and supporting them. Each and every one of you is vital to this work. Together, we will see many more thousands of lives touched and transformed forever.
Fran Beckett is Chair of the Board of Trustees for Prison Fellowship.