A Christian presence in every community

Justice Issues & Prisons

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, is  Bishop to Her Majesty's prisons


November 2014    The State of our Prisons?

What state are our prisons really in?  Are they 'in meltdown', or 'chaotic'? If so, why are we not hearing more on the news about it?  If not, why has the number of suicides in prisons risen so sharply, and does that tragic rise tell us anything about conditions in prisons more generally?

The Chief Inspector of Prisons has recently published his Annual Report (you might have heard the Bishop of Rochester speaking about it on the Sunday programme on Radio 4). It gives a very full and balanced view of the evidence (covering the year 2013-2014, but making further comments on what has been happening since April). It is available on the Inspectorate website.  However, we in MPA have done a shorter summary of it which gives you the main headlines - read it here.

March 2014

The Chair of the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, Philip Fletcher, has submitted a response to the Justice Committee's consultation on Prisons Policy and Planning.  Such submissions become the property of the Justice Committee and are not disclosable before that Committee has issued its report. 

 The questions in the consultation related to such current trends as the new-for-old prison estate modernisation programme, which is leading to fewer, larger prisons; and the cuts in staffing which go along with the 'benchmarking' process which standardises delivery and aims to reduce costs.  The submission, while acknowledging  that the public purse cannot afford everything that would be desirable, highlights the impact of cuts on regimes, especially the amount of time prisoners are unlocked, and on the 'working prisons' policy which the government emphasised especially in its earlier years.  It also points to some particular impacts on women and young people in prison.

July 2013

The Chair of the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, Philip Fletcher, has submitted a response to the Ministry of Justice's consultation on proposed changes to the legal aid system.  The submission focuses on the impact of the cuts on vulnerable people.  The full text is available here.

30th July - The MPA Division has joined with the Law Society and others in requesting that the Lord Chancellor wait until the Joint Committee for Human Rights has reported, before deciding on any changes to civil legal aid.

March 2011 The Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England issued a response to the Government Green Paper Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders. Overall the Council welcomed the analysis and policy proposals in the Green Paper. The proposals represent an honest recognition of some of the fundamental weaknesses in current methods of dealing with offenders, and offer bold and far-reaching suggestions for improvement.

Prisons Week For over thirty years Prisons Week has prepared prayer literature to enable the Christian community, through individuals and churches, to pray for the needs of prisoners, their families, victims of crime and the many people who are involved in caring for prisoners.

2007 Taking Responsibility for Crime debated by Synod and considered:

  • major challenges to the criminal justice system as a result of prison overcrowding
  • changes in the system of supervising offenders with the amalgamation of the prison and probation services.
  • opportunities for Christian service and initiatives in the criminal justice system and in working with offenders in the community.

The debate took place at a time of considerable public anxiety about dangerous offenders and anti-social behaviour.

1999 Prisons: A Study in Vulnerability (and debated in Synod which carried following motion)

That this Synod

a.    welcomes Her Majesty's Government's commitment to the development of restorative justice programmes which enshrine the biblical principles of holding offenders responsible for their crimes, addressing the needs of victims, and enhancing the protection of the public.

b.    welcome efforts to prevent 15 and 16 year olds being remanded into prison custody by offering constructive alternatives in the community.

c.     note the continuing public concern about the effect of crime in our communities;

d.    record its unease at the disproportionate number of black offenders in our prisons, and welcome initiatives to eradicate racism throughout the judicial and penal system;

e.    request Her Majesty's Government to reassess the situation whereby mentally ill people are often held in prison when they would be better treated in a secure hospital environment;

f.      recognise the need to reintegrate offenders into the community through prison and community based programmes and in partnership with employment and accommodation schemes;

g.    affirm the role of prison staff, chaplains, Boards of Visitors and volunteers and the part they play in supporting the families of people in prison; and

h.    urge dioceses, deaneries and parishes to promote the study of Prisons: A Study in Vulnerability (GS Misc 557) through criminal justice groups and other means.

1996 Young People and Crime and Private Sector Involvement in Prisons.

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