No Easy Answers

by Gerry Lynch last modified 07 Oct, 2016 04:55 PM

Church organised debate in Marlborough to tackle thorny subject of prisons during Prisons Week

No Easy Answers

Photo: (C) Aliven Sarkar

Churches in North East Wiltshire are organising a public debate on prison policy to help people reach informed viewpoints.

The event will take place in Marlborough Town Hall at 7 pm on Wednesday 12 October and is entitled Prison: Why Go There? It takes place in the middle of Prisons Week, which starts on Sunday 9 October.

The speakers are Judge Simon Hammond, recently retired from two decades at Leicester Crown Court, Andrew Neilson from the Howard League for Penal Reform, and the Revd Benny Hazlehurst, a former Prison Chaplain. The debate will be chaired by the Rt Revd Edward Condry, Bishop of Ramsbury.

The Revd Janneke Blokland, who helped organise the debate, said, “For some years now, Pewsey and Marlborough Deaneries have organised an annual debate which looks at ethical and other topical issues. The subjects we have covered in the past include immigration, euthanasia and the morality of capitalism.

“This year we have decided to look at the challenges and opportunities surrounding the UK’s Prison Policy. With the UK Prison population at over 85,000, and rates of reoffending at over 25%, it is no wonder that prison reform is so topical today.”

Launched in 2010, the annual Bishop's Debate selects a topical subject which has difficult ethical issues associated with it and aims to explore some of those issues in more detail through debate and discussion. The intention is to challenge perhaps long established views and provoke a fresh understanding. Previous topics have explored euthanasia; military intervention in the affairs of other nations; capitalism; the relationship between war, truth & literature.

Janneke continued, “Prison Reform is always topical, with rates of reoffending in England and Wales currently over 25%. In June 2016 the prison population in England and Wales was 84,405, which is means it has almost doubled over 25 years. People in prison, prisoners and staff alike, are less safe than they were five years ago, and 290 people died in prison in the 12 months prior to 2016 – over a third of these deaths were self-inflicted.

“So it is important that the effectiveness of prisons and their rights and wrongs are debated. We would like to explore some of these issues and see if there is a particular Christian viewpoint.”

Judge Simon Hammond has said, "We cannot tackle issues of punishment or rehabilitation unless we know why people commit crimes. Alcohol, drugs and mental health problems are main drivers of violence and crime."

"For some, prison is an acceptable commercial risk for benefits of easy money."

"There is no magic solution: rehabilitation – in community or prison – depends on circumstances and risks involved."

For forty years now, Prisons Week has prepared prayer literature to enable the Christian community, through individuals and churches, to pray for the needs of all those affected by prisons: prisoners and their families, victims of crime and their communities, those working in the criminal justice system and the many people who are involved in caring for those affected by crime on the inside and outside of our prisons.

Prisons Week raises awareness and generates prayer. It motivates volunteers to step forward and give their time and gifts, in prisons and in their own communities. It provides an annual focus and reason for Christians to work together, building capacity and motivation to make a difference for people who are out of sight and often out of mind.

Prisons Sunday – the second Sunday in October – marks the beginning of the week of prayer each year, running through until the following Saturday.

Learn more about Prisons Week and download prayer resources here.

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