Prisons New

Encounter 13 | Incarceration

Photo by  Denny Müller  on  Unsplash

How does religion play a role in our prison system?

Can faith stop prisoners reoffending?

We speak to Dr Ruth Armstrong from the Institute of Criminology in Cambridge to assess these questions before a hands on discussion with Imam Farooq Mulla and Bob Wilson, both of whom have spent years bringing their faith to the UK’s incarceration system. What are the challenges of this job? In what ways can prisoners be redeemed? And does our prison system need urgent help?

Please find out more about the Podcast on Woolf Institute’s website here.

Free Churches Group welcome the appointment of Revd James Ridge

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It is with great pleasure that the Free Churches Group welcome the appointment of Revd James Ridge most warmly into his new role as Chaplain General of HMPPS. Having worked with Revd Ridge over a number of years in the context of Chaplaincy leadership I know that his wisdom, skill and developmental rigour will be hugely appreciated by all who serve those living and working in the prisons of England and Wales as Chaplains. As Free Churches Faith Advisor I look forward to working with James collegiately and supportively as we strive to maintain the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Services of HMPPS, a service which I believe to be a world-leading example of multi-faith co-operation and transformational engagement.

Bob Wilson
Free Churches Faith Advisor to HMPPS & Secretary for Prison Chaplaincy

'Education has the best chance of turning lives around'

Emily Dewar-Langridge teaches young offenders at Feltham prison, and has won an award for the difference she’s made to students. Here, she explains her role. 

Emily writes: "I’ve been a teacher at Feltham prison – an institution for young male offenders – for two years now. I work with 15 to 18-year-olds, but only a few of them stay with us throughout those years. The average sentence served here is about four months, so the group changes frequently....." You can read more about challenges and opportunities encountered and the hope this teacher sees in who she works with, in the newspaper article online HERE

Wherever we might find ourselves in life, we always have the chance through education and support, to make a fresh work towards fulfilling our God-given potential.

Education has the power to turn our lives around, even when we might feel lost or broken...

Education can give help us to see a silver lining to build a brighter future, even when the present moment feels cloudy and hopeless... 

Have you been inspired by this teacher's story? what could you do in your church or as an individual Christian to make a difference for education in prisons?

You might find some of the these links helpful in praying and thinking about planning this... :

Prison Advice and Care Trust

Prison Fellowship 

Free Churches Group Welcome Directory

Prison Hope 


Discovering the good in simple things Christ asks us to do!

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  ‘While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’  Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.’ Mark 14:22-23

Both in church and in prison recently I’ve thought to myself how easy it is as a minister from a Free Churches tradition to miss out on the simple meal of remembrance Jesus called us to. But two things strike me here; firstly how simple is this meal really, and secondly just how much we really do miss out? The Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Communion or Breaking Bread together service naturally draws us towards the symbolism, perhaps the sacrementalism, the very act of remembrance, and the presence of the Trinity in this meal. When I share communion in prison I am drawn time and again to the willingness with which Jesus shared this event with one who has been so often vilified over the years, his betrayer Judas.

Over the years many theologians have discussed the fellowship gathered together to meet with their Lord in a special act of remembrance. Arguments have flown about the nature of the elements and their meaning during the service, who can and cannot administer which parts of the service, the effects on the participants of not taking Jesus’ call to recognise him seriously and so on. However recently I’ve been drawn to think several times about Jesus calling us to do this simply because it is another thing that is good for us, drawing us closer to him, to his Father, and to the Spirit.

Bread and wine – simple, yet hugely complex elements. My brother-in-law has recently taken up the hobby of wine-making, and anyone looking at the spreadsheets he has created to help him monitor the progression of his creations would conclude that this is anything but simple. And anyone who has watched Paul Hollywood dissect a piece of bread on bakeoff would again know that there is more to this flour and yeast combination than meets the eye! Collaboration with the natural processes of fermentation to my untrained eye certainly has something of the mysterious about it.

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The transformation of hurting people too has something of the mysterious about it. Why is it that some whom we work with seem to ‘take’, and some seem to need more time to develop? Why do journeys of faith, seemingly so secure as they approach the prison gate suddenly seem so fragile in the hours following release? And how does God take what some may see as a hopeless soul and change this into a glorious life lived fully. In prison chaplaincy we do see all of these, and every time the outworkings are in my mind mysterious. Both good news and bad news stories seem to me to have the mysterious element about them; the same element that takes the ‘normal’ elements of fermented grape and baked wheat to give us a way to meet Jesus together.

As we meet around the elements of the bread and wine, we meet together the Trinity in relationship.  The Father sending his son, Jesus’ obedience in leaving the glory of heaven and submitting himself to death on the cross, and the ongoing work of the Spirit in the power of the resurrection. In the substance of the bread and the wine, the right ingredients, taken through the right process and eaten in the right mindset bring us closer to our creator, and in this mystery we are changed.

The Institute of the Study of Happiness in Copenhagen (yes, there is such a place!) has recently concluded that eating together is one of the most common and universal elements which leads people to a better sense of wellbeing. It does us good. How much more potential does eating together in the conscious presence of the triune God have? As I say, maybe this is simply another thing that Jesus calls us to because he knows it does us good.

Let us not miss out on those things that do us good. No wonder Jesus broke bread and gave thanks.

Bob Wilson

Secretary for Prison Chaplaincy and Free Church Faith Advisor

Prisons Week 2017, 8-14 October 2017

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"Press On"

Prisons Week Runs from 8-14 October 2017. Prayer leaflets are freely available for churches and individuals to join in prayer across the UK. You can order the leaflet via Prisons Week website here or email: or download here.

Watch Prisons Week 2017 video here. "Press On", written and performed by Kenny Baraka, for Prisons Week 2017

Full Script below ...




To our Mother, ‘art in heaven,
beg you listen, will be done,
’til the system is that,
we birds of a feather ‘ere we PRESS ON!

To our Father, ‘art in heaven,
beg you listen, kingdom come,
from the beginning ’til we get there, altogether, pray we PRESS ON!

Pled to the larceny, conspiracy, possession with intent but man they swear down it was those grievously bodied that I was shipped for.
When really though, was no impulse control [I] should’ve been charged with plus the mash at my nan’s, ‘nother 7 years on the re-up,
but then just 6 years later,
release me for good behavior,
in the hopes that I would slowly transition [right] back into the fold.
It’s like trying to breathe underwater but when going back’s not option
I’m learning to walk on water God’s son forever. PRESS ON!

And we let you know you aren’t alone,
we family go though it with you,
feel your pain down in our bones.
Funny how you rarely hear about the ones they left at home though in the wake of all that happened,
left a lot of broken homes.
A double shift just trying to make it better for you when you [get] home.
Or how our house is not a home since you been gone, things been different.
But we visiting just the same,
not going through this on your own.
So, when your strength start to weaken here’s a shoulder for you to PRESS ON!

Answer the phone when duty calling
but living a life both in and outside of them prison walls.
Seeing both things for how they could and too often they really are,
could drive anyone [of] us insane,
I hear ya man.
Keep ya head up.
whether helping better themselves ‘til their sentence is done,
or helping them stay safe, a hero’s work’s never done though.
Try and tell them in the end,
when all’s been said you done seen that their mind is the only prison,
hope they listen,
may you PRESS ON!

And as a servant of the court,
you swore an oath: uphold the law over all the things you believe in.
But when the bailiff’s underpaid,
the caseworker’s understaffed,
and the clerks so overworked they postponing every arraignment.
Then the justice system isn’t,
even half [of] what you was taught.
But keep your promise that like stenographer’s keys
that you PRESS ON!

But y’all don’t hear me,
what I’m saying is if we all this ship together, effects ripple the pond
So, whatever part of that prison life you isn’t or are,
Whatever postcode,
Or estates that you from.
From all the innocent victims,
not falling a victim to it.
Whose getting back on their horses.
It’s just it wasn’t your fault, PRESS ON!

To mothers scared to let their kids out,
Shopkeepers keeping the kids out.
To you kids who keep pulling your knives out,
snake keep eating its tail.
It’s a vicious cycle,
vultures circle, man, woman and child.
So, regardless of your religion,
it’s only when all of us God’s children,
all finally come together that her will will be done.
When all us shoulder to shoulder,
all soldiers in God’s army all making it out the valley,
that his kingdom has come.
So in essence this call to prayer,
is really a call to arms that we PRESS ON!

In Christ’s name we pray, can I get an amen?!
To our Mother, ‘art in heaven,
beg you listen, will be done,
’til the system is the,
we birds of a feather’s ‘ere we PRESS ON!

To our Father, ‘art in heaven,
beg you listen, kingdom come,
from the beginning ’til we get there, altogether, pray we PRESS ON!