Rev Kevin Dawkins is Senior Pastor of Faith Tabernacle, a Prison Fellowship Trustee, a Sycamore Tree Tutor, and a Chaplain at HMYOI Feltham in West London. We asked him for his thoughts around injustice in the prison sector, and what our response should be.
I know from a spiritual perspective why God put me in Feltham to minister 15 years ago— to empower young males, to be a role model and because of the disproportionately high number of black males there. They need to hear the Gospel but they need to hear it from someone they can identify with, someone who will understand where they are coming from.
You can walk into the Chapel at Feltham on a Sunday and there might be 30 men there and 25 of them will be black. As a black man, that hurts me. We know that black men are disproportionately being stopped and searched, arrested and convicted. Racism is a fact of life for me. You get used to it but it is horrible.
At Prison Fellowship, we represent Christ. We know all lives matter, but right now it is black people that are the ones suffering. We are meant to identify with the oppressed, the broken, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. We must present the love of Christ without prejudice. We also know that the Church has racism within it and we need to stand against that.
If black prisoners can see that we genuinely love them as a person, if they experience that love that Christ brings—when we can support them, encourage them, affirm them, acknowledge to them that racism exists and apologise when that is appropriate in a conversation—that will make a difference.
We are an organisation built on prayer. And we know that we struggle against racist strongholds and principalities that are five centuries old. We have to pull down and destroy those strongholds. We must pray without ceasing.
During the Sycamore Tree course, the learners are asked to put themselves in the victim’s perspective in the story of Zacchaeus. The responses we hear are all about fairness—they say they just want him to do his job properly, to be treated fairly, they just want Zach to recognise how much he has hurt them by his actions.
It is the same for all black people. We just want to be treated fairly. To have the same opportunities. To be recognised, not by the colour of our skin, but as God’s creation. As human beings.
Further reading: Find out how Prison Fellowship are responding, and about the 2017 Lammy Review into the treatment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people in the criminal justice system.