I have recently become a prison chaplain. Going into prison has been a new experience for me and I am glad I can walk out at the end of the day. From all I have seen staff are working hard at a difficult time with enormous pressures on them. The prisoners have faced many hours locked in their tiny cells, restrictions on visits.
We have the highest prison population in Western Europe and the Government is set on building more prisons. Society is safer for some of these people being inside but for many it is a breeding ground for further crime. John Lampen writes “it puts the violent man into a subculture which is governed by violence; it puts the defrauder into a power position where corruption is rife.. and it puts the offender who is likely to reform into a milieu where most of the influences on him or her are criminal ones.”
It is easy to forget about people in prison but they are going to sooner or later be released and return to society.
Can we use restitution as an alternative to prison more? John Lampen again. “Restitution … accepts the reality of what has happened and the right of the sufferer to ‘have something done about it’. It accepts that the perpetrator is in most cases feeling guilty, or at least humiliated to have been detected. But it offers him or her an opportunity to regain the good opinion of the sufferer and the community, and to be seen as a person who can give as well as take away, who can right wrongs as well as cause them…”
Think of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa established to look at the crimes of apartheid and headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Keith Scott, member of the Quaker faith
Date: Monday 17th January 2022