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Prison Work

'My highlight was not just seeing the delight on the children’s faces as they were given their gift, but also the joy on the faces of their parents that their children were being valued in this way.' - Mothers' Union member involved in Christmas gift-giving.

In Britain and Ireland, there are a total of 133 prisons with a population of just under 85,000 people. Mothers’ Union have a presence in many of these prisons bringing hope to those who most need it.

Statistics reveal that 45% of people in prisons lose contact with their families when they go to prison. Research also shows that maintaining family contact between those in prison and their families and friends is really essential not just for the well-being of those in prison, their resettlement and reduced rates of reoffending following the sentence, but also for the development, wellbeing and social inclusion of children. So much of our work centres on supporting the continued connection between those in prison and their families.

This is achieved through volunteering in prison visitors’ centres which is the first point of contact for those visiting the prison. Members ensure visitors are warmly welcomed and informed or what to expect when they visit. They also run support groups, family days and prison creches for people with a partner in prison for the first time to help them in communicating with children and preparing for prison visits. 

The 'Read Together' scheme where children and a parent in prison can read the same book together helps build their relationships, plus partnering with other initiatives such as the Angel Tree or Operation Elf to ensure that children get a present given by their parent (s) at Christmas.

In some prisons, Mothers’ Union run craft and cookery sessions, courses such as the being Dad and parenting groups. In HM Prison Low Newton there is even a Mothers’ Union branch. In many prisons, members support the prison chaplaincy and uphold all the prisons in prayer.

Members also create 'release bags' filled with useful items like underwear, clothes, shopping vouchers and toiletries when they leave prison, gift thousands of cards for Christmas and Easter every year and provide Christmas tree decorations, bringing much-needed cheer for inmates and staff alike. They also provide bags for first-time dads, filled with gifts for the baby to help foster positive relationship between them. 

'There is no standard way for us to work in a prison. What is important is that we listen to the needs and respond. We need to be flexible as the context in prisons is constantly changing. It is also about looking for need and responding and working with other organisations in partnership.'

If you are interested in getting involved in prisons work, there is bound to be a role that suits your interest and skills. Get in touch with your diocese for more information about how you can be involved locally. You can also join the movement of prayer during Prisons Week.  

Prisons Week - A Week of Prayer

Mothers’ Union is one of the sponsors of Prisons Week, an annual event that has been running for over 40 years.

Prisons Week raises awareness and generates prayer for all those affected by prisons - prisoners and their families, victims of crime and their communities, those working in the criminal justice system and the many people who are involved in caring for those affected by crime on the inside and outside of our prisons. 

'Prisons Week reminds me of God’s heart to bring healing, peace and freedom to those caught up in the criminal justice system, who are out of sight and out of mind. Having worked as a police officer in the Met Police for 27 years, and then as a chaplain at Wandsworth Prison for 12 years I have seen something of the worst and the best aspects of human behaviour. It was in prison that I witnessed the power of prayer, of fellowship in adversity and the new life that Jesus offers.' - Canon Tim Bryan, chair of the Prisons Week Working Groups.

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