How deserted lie the landings, the gym and recreation areas
once so full of people!
How still she now is,
Whose corridors once flowed with the energy of life.
Bitterly she weeps at night,
tears are on her cheeks.
there is no one to comfort her.
No visitors enter her doors – no wife, no husband, no children
to soften the harsh walls with their love and comforting smiles.
Even the chore of our simple labour is missed,
The humble tasks which hid the ticking clock for just a few hours have gone.
Pride in a job well done is overtaken in the midst of distress.
23 hours of the same. 23 hours only in my head. 23 hours in these four walls.
My prayers bounce back from the cell ceiling
like sand on a pyramid’s mighty wall.
Are you there, God? Have you deserted me?
Have you finally turned your face from me and left me to languish here?
My body aches and groans from my confinement,
Oh how I wish to run, to stretch and to feel fresh air against my face,
But I sit. I just sit.
This invisible enemy has taken the remnant of humanity left to me in this place.
Even the food consumed in this cell is a reminder
of the trace of civility of past meals taken together.
The clanging doors, once grim reminders of imprisonment are stilled.
This is why I weep
and my eyes overflow with tears.
No one is near to comfort me,
no one to restore my spirit.
My family are sorrowful – exiled from me
this sickness steals the very fabric of connection with those I love – contact.
God, I think you are still there.
I believe that you care.
Father have mercy,
Take this burden from around my neck,
Open the windows of heaven and pour out your love.
Please be my comfort when no one else is near,
Restore my spirit and do not let me be crushed,
Look upon my suffering and comfort me.
Wipe my eyes, strengthen my bones and lift my heart
so that I may praise you again.
This Lament was written by PF CEO, Peter Holloway, loosely based on Lamentations 1 in the Bible.
It is informed by the current situation in prisons where, in an attempt to keep the coronavirus from spreading rapidly, men and women are currently confined to their cells for 23 hours a day on average, most work, education and social activities are suspended, and all outside visits have stopped.
While we recognise the necessity of these changes to protect men and women who live and work in prison, we also wanted to give space to lament the loss of so many activities and normalities that create the opportunity for real rehabilitation.
While most of our volunteers are currently unable to go into prison, we are not passive. We are actively increasing our prayer together, training for volunteers, and relaunching our Letter Link programme – a lifeline to many at this time. We will be ready as soon as the doors reopen to continue showing Christ’s love to men and women in prison through our programmes and ministry of presence.
You are welcome to use this Lament in church and worship contexts, when crediting the source.