Rehabilitating Offenders – Should We Care?

Did you know – A prisoner is five times more likely to commit suicide than some who isn’t in prison...

I have sat here, thinking about that statement for a while. When I first started this research,  I had two thoughts, but those thoughts were very much disassociated.

Mental health is very important to me and suicide is even closer to my heart. But then I started to think about prisoners. There is a certain negative connotation that comes with my thoughts. 

Criminal. Murderer. Rapist. 

But then I started to talk to my friend called Lauren. I went to school with Lauren and she is now the prison minister at her church amongst many other fabulous things. Whilst I don’t follow a faith, it does fascinate me and it definitely interests me how faith can support people. 

My current law degree module is Criminal Law, and whilst the module is heavily focussed on the criminal rights and wrongs, I wanted to extend my perspective and looks at criminality from an alternative perspective. 

Barbed wire with a prison in the background.
Photo by Hédi Benyounes on Unsplash

The Facts

  • 77% of prisoners are in prison because of non-violent offences; so theft, drug-related crimes and other crimes.
  • 54% of prisoners have a reading age of below 11 years old.
  • There are actually only 63 people who are in prison and will be for the rest of their lives.
  • 60% of people in prison have spent time in care as children.
Prison window with a shadow of a person in the white wall.
Photo by Ye Jinghan on Unsplash

Have You Ever Thought About Why People Offend?

Even today, we, as a society and divided by class. It is a sad reality, but for many the reality of the disadvantages they face often means they struggle to get a good education, a stable job, or at a minimum, a place to call home. 

Can you imagine, simply, not having anywhere to go? 

A person wearing a grey hoodie and blue jeans asleep on the streets against a black wall.
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have nowhere to go. What I do no is that my mental health is hard enough and I am fortunate enough to have a roof over my head.

Addiction

I do know what it is like to recognise addiction. My Dad was an alcoholic, his life largely depended on alcohol. A high proportion of people in or going into prison are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. But what is much more terrifying is that when leaving prison, a lot of people come out in a much worse position than when they went in. 

How is that helping to rehabilitate offenders? 

Discarded needles and drugs on stones.
Photo by VanveenJF on Unsplash

We live in a society that is always going to disadvantage someone.

Lauren Meredith, Harbour Church, Prison Ministry. 

Some of the most violent offenders often, have come from a background of being a victim to crime themselves. Obviously, two wrongs will never make a right, but without the right access to support, offenders may not know where to turn. 

But Why Should We Support Offenders?

Fifty percent of people released from prison commit another offence within one year of being released from prison. 50 PERCENT. When you look at the reasons why someone might re-offend the reasons are scarily similar to the reasons why someone might be forced to offend in the first place.  

 I think that for the majority of people who end up in prison, its never black and white. Someone isn’t a bad person, or a good person, there are factors that lead people to living in a certain way and doing certain things and these need to be accounted for before we judge prisoners as bad people.

Lauren Meredith, Harbour Church, Prison Ministry. 
Lots of people crossing the road on a zebra crossing.
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

But Where Does Christianity Come Into This?

Whilst most of this information has come from Lauren, and it is very well researched from academic sources, something has really resonated with me. Christianity completely plays a part in the way you think. 

I believe that people are good and that they have been dealt a bad hand and that people can always change. I hear SO many stories of people who are in prison and become Christians and end up being released and living incredible lives. I think it has a lot to do with the Christian idea that there is always a second, third, fourth chance and that hope really does have the power to change someone’s behaviour.

Lauren Meredith, Harbour Church, Prison Ministry.

The Voice Of Prisioners

Lauren sent me this video, and now, I want to do an Alpha course.

Hearing about Shane’s life, where he has come from and the place that he has been taken to with Christianity is so life touching. If anything, THIS proves what Lauren said above – ‘it has a lot to do with the Christian idea that there is always a second, third, fourth chance’. 

When I first started researching, like I said at the very beginning, my thoughts between mental health and offenders were very disassociated. In fact I found it difficult to associate with them at all. 

Now, I couldn’t feel more different, I know might never be able to help everyone, but surely, just one person means that it was worth it right? 

What are your thoughts on prisoners? Do you think we should work harder to help and support them and do you think helping them to find a faith provides a strong foundation in doing so?

A big, big, thank you to Lauren for providing me with all of this information, this is not the end on this topic.  

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