This coming Sunday is a day in the Catholic calendar to pray for prisoners and their dependants and to offer practical help.How to help prisoners this Sunday
Rev Donald Scott Chaplain at Polmont Young Offenders Institution in Scotland.
Gary Doak, Alamy
This coming Sunday is a day in the Catholic calendar to pray for prisoners and their dependants and to offer practical help.
Prisoners’ Sunday highlights the 78,789 people currently in prison cells in England and Wales. The day is also intended to help families of prisoners, including the 90,000 children with a father or mother in prison.
Packs have been mailed out to parishes by the Prison Advice and Care Trust (Pact), the major Catholic charity for the support of prisoners and their families, working in prisons across England and Wales. Founded 120 years ago as the Catholic Prisoners Aid Society, today Pact works with people of all faiths and none.
During the height of the pandemic, prisoners were locked in their cells for more than 23 hours per day, without any visitors, chapel, exercise or proper education or training.
Pact’s chief executive, Andy Keen-Downs, said: “We are facing a crisis of mental illness and despair in our prisons, the scale of which I have never seen before. Unless we can provide the care, support, and rehabilitation services needed, far too many people will leave prison only to commit further crimes, harming our communities.”
The charity said: “These are difficult times, but we rely on the support of the Catholic community at this time.”
The charity trains and supports dedicated volunteers, drawn from Catholic communities and more widely. Staff and volunteers provide a range of services in more than 70 prisons and in courts in London and North Wales, such as mentoring prisoners due to be released from prison. They can be helped by Pact Welfare Grants, designed to help individuals in need and support people to live crime-free lives after prison. Prison Visitors’ Centres help children and families. Pact’s national Prisoners and Families helpline has responded to 13,000 calls from family members in the last year alone.
Pact’s President, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, encourages parishes to mark Prisoners’ Sunday and give financial support to the work of Pact. Cardinal Nichols said: “Let us not forget that the needs of prisoners are great and growing, particularly as we emerge from the lockdown imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we must not forget either the prison staff or our chaplains who too have had to confront the additional challenges posed as a result of the pandemic.”
Canon Paul Douthwaite, national Catholic chaplain for prisons, said: “On this day each year, Prisoners’ Sunday, the Catholic Church in England and Wales responds to Jesus’ invitation to visit the prisoner and demonstrates, as Jesus did, compassion for those who are imprisoned.” He urged prayers for prisoners, their families, all who have been affected by crime and for those who care for them, especially prison chaplains. He called on people to volunteer to help prisoners, either directly at a local prison, or through the works of Pact.
The Fresh Start newsletter, which is published in printed mail and email format, features stories of Pact’s work, impact reports, and information on how to become more engaged in the mission of Pact.
More resources here.