London: multi-faith project launched at young offenders unit

 The Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust, a pioneering new multi-faith Community Chaplaincy project which aims to break the cycle of re-offending amongst young people leaving Feltham Young Offenders Institution, was formally launched at London's City Hall yesterday. The Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust project seeks to make it easier for released young offenders to remain true to their faith values and so avoid re-offending. The project will train faith volunteers, including Catholic and Anglican and other Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus to work with young offenders leaving prison and to help them resettle into the community. Feltham Young Offenders Institution in west London holds around 600 young and juvenile prisoners from age 15 to 21 years old. Many young men in Fatima find or renew their faith, with some 250 trainees and prisoners attending a faith service every week. However, although these young men have made a commitment to break the cycle of crime whilst inside Fatima, it is harder for them to maintain this commitment once they have been released. Re-offending rates for all released young offenders from Fatima are around 70% within three years of release. The Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust's work includes the setting up of support groups in a number of London boroughs to help young men released from Feltham Young Offenders Institution adjust to their new lives and to lead crime free lives. The project will also work with service delivery organisations such as probation and youth offending teams, housing, employment and medical agencies to ensure that released young men have access to essential services. The Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust is being supported by generous funding over a three year period from the National Lottery, the Jerusalem Trust, The Church Urban Fund and the Catholic Diocese of Westminster and other charitable trusts. Funding will cover recruitment costs, training and travel for staff and volunteers and other project related costs. Speaking at the launch of the Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust at City Hall, London, yesterday, Fr Stuart Wilson, Director of the Diocesan renewal programme, 'At Your Word, Lord', read out the following message of support from Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor: "The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have energetically raised their voices to insist that our penal system must provide opportunities for reform and rehabilitation at every stage for all those in its care. Our prisons must be places of redemption. But redemption and rehabilitation do not stop when an offender leaves the prison. That is why I am delighted to commend the Feltham Community Chaplaincy Trust, which will support young offenders as they embark on their road of change and recovery after they leave Feltham. What these young people need to hear is that they can be so much more than what they have done; but it also needs to be proved to them. The Trust is bringing together faith community volunteers from all over London who will do just that. I will keep this wonderful initiative in my prayers." Source: Archbishop's House

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