You may have seen Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, robustly drawing attention to the awful practice of police strip-searching children – in which she describes ‘systemic problems.’ She states, ‘I want us to get to a place where, if a police officer encounters a child late at night and suspects they might be carrying drugs or a weapon, their first thought is “What can I do to keep this child safe?” Every interaction the police have with a child should be seen as an opportunity to understand their situation, in order to safeguard them from exploitation and prevent their involvement with both crime and the criminal justice system.’
Pact is the national Catholic prison charity providing family services in more than 60 prisons across England & Wales. When Pact CEO Andy Keen-Downs met Dame de Souza recently, their discussion focussed on how children can be affected by police raids on their homes. Andy said, ‘Imagine what it must feel like as a child to be woken up in the middle of the night by armed police kicking down the door, turning the house over and taking your father, mother, brother or sister away’. Pact has offered training to police forces about the way raids are conducted in homes where children are present.
There are more than 96,000 children in England & Wales whose mum or dad is in prison today. There are certainly children and families in your parish or in your community who have lived experience of having a loved one in prison.
I hope you have seen and used Pact’s new illustrated Stations of the Cross liturgy booklet – which is on its third print-run already. The text incorporates the words of people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, including a man who was incarcerated many times from the age of just 15.
One of Pact’s parish reps shared this about the text, ‘I can hear the voices of prisoners and their families.’ Surely sharing those voices can help to inspire change. As Pope Francis tells us in Fratelli Tutti, ‘… for all the progress we have made, we are still “illiterate” when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. We have become accustomed to looking the other way… ignoring situations until they affect us directly.’ As Holy Week approaches, we are reminded of Jesus’ response to the convicted criminal crucified beside him: ‘This day you will be with me in paradise’.
On listening to those voices, we find that people in prison are concerned for their children as much as parents ‘on the outside’ are. In our liturgy, for reflection at the 14th Station, one person describes her hope, ‘to stay healthy and not be a letdown anymore. To be someone for my kids to be proud of and my family.’
Pact supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. We provide caring and life-changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community. There is a multitude of ways you can help us to better serve children and families in these isolating and often stigmatising situations.
We will be advancing the dialogue on the contribution of the values of our faith to reshaping the criminal justice system for prisoners, children and families, at our annual Sir Harold Hood Memorial Lecture on 24thMay. Dr Chijioke Nwalozie will be speaking on ‘The Church’s Participation in Prison Reform’. To help us steadfastly continue the work, our spirits will be lifted by the presence of the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir. Please join us in person and be part of the encounter and discussion.
Harold Hood Lecture Registration Sir Harold Hood Memorial Lecture 2023 | Prison Advice and Care Trust
Other events in person and online: Events | Prison Advice and Care Trust
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Contact Theresa firstname.lastname@example.org
You can freely download Pact’s text-only Stations of the Cross liturgy here: Stations of the Cross | Prison Advice and Care Trust .
If you would like a copy of the illustrated booklet, please contact us email@example.com
About the Prison Advice & Care Trust (Pact)
Pact is a pioneering national, Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. We provide caring and life changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.
Pact’s vision is of a society in which justice is understood as a process of restoration and healing, in which prisons are used sparingly and as places of learning and rehabilitation, and in which the innate dignity and worth of every human being is valued. Website: www.prisonadvice.org.uk
Pact is a charity registered in England & Wales, number 219278.
Company registration number: 356443.
Registered office: 29 Peckham Road, London, SE5 8UA.