Enabling mission and Christian living
HMP Elmley is a local Prison on the Isle of Sheppy in Kent. It houses Category B and C prisoners along with Young Offenders and is the largest prison in Kent, Sussex and Essex region. I have been a part-time Chaplin here for 10 months now and am just beginning feel confident in my new role.
Let me take you through a typical day. I arrive at 7.30am and clear my emails, check the answer phone and prepare for the day. I look at the Applications we have had in from some men which have a variety of requests: can I attend chapel, can I attend the Muslim/Pagan, Sikh etc class, can someone come and see me, can I have rosary bead, guitar strings, can you give me an emergency call to my family……
My first task is to meet with all the men who came into prison the previous day. I check how they are, get details of their religion and next of kin, and tell them about the faith provision. We chat about what to avoid and what will help their time go quickly and positively. Some are ‘frequent flyers’ who greet me with a rueful smile. Some however are devastated, especially the youngsters. Some have left young children. Some, even on very short sentences, will lose job and home. Some open up and tell difficult stories of their past. I return to the office to start entering details on the computer system but the phone rings and I am called out to ACCT reviews which are for those at risk of self-harm or suicide. I return to the office and again start the paper work when the phone rings again. A family member is calling asking us to inform someone of a death. I get the details then try to verify the details with hospital, police, coroner or funeral director. GDPR can make this a difficult but it must be verified as some callers are not telling us the truth and have malicious intent. Finally I go and tell the person concerned, offer a call to a relative and a visit to the chapel to light a candle if they wish. I then fill in the paperwork to apply to a Governor for permission for them to attend the funeral if a close relative. Sometimes I get to give good ew3s…the birth of a baby….a bittersweet moment.
Finally I get back to the paperwork and complete it.
Hopefully I can then get round to chat to some of the men. Sometimes I hear stories of hopelessness as nearly a third will leave homeless and without any support. Some fear leaving as the support for their mental health and drug and alcohol addiction issues is very poor outside. One guy told me he had committed a petty crime just to get back in for the support. It is small wonder that so many reoffend. What a sad indictment of our care for the vulnerable in society.
But there are also stories of hope. The men doing degrees and job training. The ones who are determined never to return and you believe them. The ones who find a faith that will help them change their lives
My work leaves me with all sorts of questions about short sentences, rehabilitation and outside support but those are not mine to solve. My role is to brings God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and hope into the lives of many who know none of these gifts and I count that a great privilege.
Hi, I’m Mike, one of the Chaplains at HMP Send, a closed, working prison for 280 women. We are blessed to have a very proactive Managing Chaplain (Lesley, who is Anglican), a range of other faith chaplains (part-time) and a host of willing volunteers to support the activities of the Chaplaincy.
Over recent years, Lesley has developed a programme, Making Connections, for prisoners during the last 6 months of their sentence to prepare them for “the out” and offer on-going mentoring once released, if they so choose. This has proved to be very successful in reducing reoffending and we are about to embark on further development so that the programme can be rolled out into other prisons. Lesley has identified a generous benefactor which will enable her to work on this development part-time whilst her other responsibilities are principally shared between Rosemary (RC) and me.
All who work at the prison recognise that the general population of the prison has changed since the closure of HMP Holloway. More women are presenting with serious mental health issues (over 70% have 2 or more mental health conditions) and this has seen rises in self-harm and attempted suicide. Chaplaincy and the wider prison is actively engaged in working with prisoners who feel vulnerable and need additional support to help them through their sentence.