New initiative to help support ex-offenders launched on Prisoners Sunday

Catholic parishes across England and Wales will mark Prisoners' Sunday on 15 November.  This year's theme is 'Hold Fast to Hope', and focuses on a new initiative being launched on Prisoners' Sunday called 'Basic Caring Communities' (BaCC), which helps support ex-offenders.

BaCC, a project pioneered by pact (The Prison Advice & Care Trust), works by forming small groups of six trained volunteers who provide regular support to former offenders, helping them settle into the community and not re-offend.  The group remains around the former offender for a few months until they have developed a support network of their own.  Daily contact is offered and once a week, the entire group meets together for an hour.  The belief is that the experience of loving care, coupled with practical help, can change lives and give people the courage to break away from a life of crime.

Right Reverend Terence Brain, Bishop of Salford, said BaCC gives ex-offenders hope as they settle into communities: "There is nothing more basic than remembering that every person sent to prison comes from a community.  Some will be from your community.  Basic Caring Communities will help reduce re-offending through providing an experience of hope and care to people leaving prison.  Hope allows people to feel valued. The hope that God gives can change lives."

Monsignor Malachy Keegan, co-founder of BaCC and Principal Catholic Chaplain for Prisons, said:  "Basic Caring Communities are nothing less than the model for Christian living as described in the Acts of the Apostles.  It is a way in which people leaving prison are able to discover that they are still indeed Children of God with immense dignity and worth.  It is also a way in which our parish communities are called back to the heart of the Gospel - to be places of welcome, care and love, especially for those on the edges of our society."

This year, pact teamed up with the St Vincent de Paul Society to send Prisoners' Sunday packs to every Catholic parish in England and Wales. The packs include a prayer leaflet, poster, youth worker sheet, a Christmas card to send to prisoners, as well as information about volunteering opportunities with BaCC. 

Andy Keen-Downs, co-founder of BaCC and director of pact, said he hopes parish communities will get involved:  "Prisoners' Sunday is about prayer and about raising awareness of the true stories of those in prison, their families, victims of crime, and all of those who work in the prison system. Basic Caring Communities is an opportunity for people from parishes across England and Wales to put their faith into action, to be alongside ex-offenders on their journey.  People are needed who are prepared not to judge, and who are willing to give some time to join a group, and offer simple human support to give an ex-offender a sense of hope.  For many ex-prisoners, it will be the first real experience of feeling part of a community."

* An open public meeting and discussion for Prisoners Sunday on 'Prisons, Prisoners & Prison Reform' takes place  on 22 November, in St Mellitus Church Hall,  at corner of Tollington Park and Evershot St, London N4.   The speakers will Msgr Malachy Keegan, Principal RC Prison Chaplain and  Juliet Lyon, Director, Prison Reform Trust. Literature will be available from Prisoners Abroad and Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence, The collection in aid of Prison Advice and Care Trust. The day is one  of St Mellitus' Jubilee events.

* An open day hosted by the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Monsignor Malachy Keegan, and Andy Keen-Downs of pact  takes place on 12 December from 10am - 3pm at Westminster Cathedral Hall.   Anyone interested in attending can call pact on 0207 490 3139 or email

Prisoners' Sunday is observed annually by the Catholic Church and is dedicated to reflection and prayer for all those affected by crime, including prisoners and their families, the victims of crime, prison staff and former offenders.

 Prisoners' Sunday packs are available online at:

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