Prisons and Theology

Today is the final day of Christmas, it’s Candlemas. Now we head towards Easter and if you are a Christian, the cross.


Yesterday I blogged about space and emotions.


Today Rev Richard Ormond  (highly recommend you give him a follow) tweeted the following link.

“There’s something very powerful about our sense of place. Words said in one place appear to carry much more weight than if they’re said somewhere else”


Then this morning one of our hymns “Be still for the power of the Lord, is moving in this place”.


I made most of my blog private for professional reasons, however many of you read my posts and were there for me during the worst times of my life.


Reading over those words is still incredibly raw and I am proud of all I have achieved despite my Complex PTSD status and going through what I have.


I have re-read my Ph.D thesis recently too for the first time since I submitted in 2017.


As a Criminologist and a Christian there is much to reflect on. I am drawn to prisons and prison ministry. I am not an arm-chair criminologist, I haven’t had the luxury of my knowledge being obtained by textbooks and semi-structured interviews.


My knowledge comes from painful reality and suffering. This is the place of radical transformation, both personally and collectively in terms of social justice.


Don’t shout over survivors. Don’t silence perpetrators. All have a seat at the table. But we must move beyond simplistic binary understandings.


Shouting abolitionist views over survivors is not helpful. Victims often want spatial division between themselves and the defendant. Not necessarily because they want ‘punishment’, (although that may well form part of their conceptualising of justice) but for their own safety and for their mental health. Victims are failed by our current criminal justice system.


There was a show on this week ‘Crime: Are We Tough Enough’ by Chris Daw QC and solicitor Ayesha Nayyar. I recommend to everybody, particularly students of criminology and law. It offers  valuable nuance and critical interrogation.


Listening to Adele Bellis, a brave survivor of an acid attack, was very poignant and upsetting. We need conversations around public protection and monitoring dangerous offenders. Adele rightly feels violated by not only the attack but the short sentence given and her treatment at the hands of the CJS.


We must go beyond the ‘pains of imprisonment’ to examine the pains of everybody in the criminal justice system.


Most people in prison should not be there. However for those who have committed violent offences and pose risks of serious harm to others, then we need to (re)imagine what the space of prison will look and feel like. The UK system is wrong.


In 2017 I was told that justice was not going to be what I imagined it to be. I had no idea what the Reverend meant, and now I do. I have been set free from many things.


In a post a year ago today, I wrote:

‘Lent is a slow turning ourselves towards God. It is the season of Lent; a reckoning of how we see the world afresh through the lens of the cross.’


The prison debate needs to be inter-disciplinary and respectful. It’s messy and chaotic and there are no complete truths or ways of knowing.


In solidarity with those hurting from any of these issues.


Gemma x