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Prisoners' Sunday - I was In prison and you came to me

  • Theresa Alessandro

Jesus invites us to visit those in prison. From the cross, he spoke beautiful words to the 'good thief'. In his call to Peter, and to the church, he charged us to 'feed my sheep'.

Lots of readers will have some kind of experience of the criminal justice system. Pact, the Prison Advice and Care Trust, is a major Catholic charity supporting prisoners and families across England & Wales. On 10th October, Prisoners' Sunday, Catholic people are particularly encouraged to support the work of Pact.

Around 80,000 people are in prison in England & Wales today. In addition, there are over 200,000 children a year who see their mum or dad go to prison. At Pact, our hearts are moved by the 'hidden sentence' that can be lived by those families.

When someone is in prison, it is hard for families to keep in touch, let alone to support each other practically - even more so over the last eighteen months. During the pandemic, prisoners have been locked in their cells for 23 hours a day with no visits from loved ones for much of this time.

Pact provides the national Prisoners' Families Helpline which manages many thousands of enquiries each year. Some of the helpline staff and volunteers have personal experience of the criminal justice system to draw on. All are ready to listen and offer help and advice without judgement.

Pact has worked with prisoners and their families for 120 years. Our first records describe two Catholic chaplains finding a place for a child made homeless when her father was imprisoned. Today Pact works with people of all faiths and none but the influence of Catholic values remains. As one former prisoner said, 'A life waited for me that was warm and fulfilling.'

Our work supporting prisoners and their families to stay in touch and even to strengthen their relationships leads to lives being transformed, a reduction in the associated harm families can experience and a genuine fresh start for everybody. As one volunteer said, 'It's opened my eyes to the consequences it has on families and communities, and given me an appreciation for the golden thread of family connection for prisoners.' Nurturing that thread improves the likelihood of the fresh start continuing to bear good fruit long into the future. Figures show that 'reoffending' is reduced by nearly 40% when family relationships are supported. As Christians we believe in the possibility of that rehabilitation, redemption and new life for everyone, whatever they have done.

Prisoners' Sunday packs have arrived in parishes now. Check that the day is being marked where you are. Pact welcomes your prayers and, if you are able, your financial support.

Prisoners' Sunday Resource Hub | Prison Advice and Care Trust

Contact us

PACT's National Prisoners' Families Helpline: freephone 0808 808 2003

Donate to Prison Advice and Care Trust


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