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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Seek Community

Buy My Brother’s Keeper from Amazon

If you want to spice up an after-dinner conversation two topics can always be relied on to do the trick – God and crime. So here goes!

Back in the early 1990s, there were no faith-based units in prisons outside South America. Yet today, they are spreading all over the world, including the United States, the Commonwealth and Europe. In 2000, I was appointed by the Home Office and the Prison Service England and Wales to head an evaluation of faith-based units in prisons in England and Wales; the full report can be downloaded for FREE from here. This was subsequently included as part of my wider, cross-programmatic, study of faith-based units in prisons around the world (My Brother’s Keeper: Faith-based units in prisons, Willan, 2005).

Religious interventions offer prisons and correctional services something unique. They have the potential for broad appeal in prisons but they are not ‘miracle cures’ for criminal behaviour. Things take time. This means that religious interventions need to be meshed with non-religious prison programmes. Faith-based units and programmes show prisoners’ capacity for living in a cohesive community, as well as taking seriously their ability to take on responsibility. Prisoner responsibility is developed by building relationships between prisoners and the community. One of the biggest incentives of religious interventions is prisoner contact with free-world volunteers, which also shows volunteers’ capacity to be part of the community being created in the prison. In all these ways, religious interventions can be a sort of prison ‘counter-culture’ and as such they attract opposition (although the prisoners themselves are usually the least of the units’ problems!). At their best, religious programmes are a signpost to prison services in terms of promoting standards of decency, humanity and order in prisons. They can resymbolise the meaning of imprisonment, making prisons more human and punishment more humane. For prisoners and the community they are expressions of surprising hope.

Download FREE chapters from My Brother’s Keeper here.

Reviews of My Brother’s Keeper: Faith-based units in prisons here.