In Prison

I spent yesterday in prison.  I go because prisons and prisoners are important.  And I go to learn about chaplaincy in the context of a prison.  I find it very hard to describe how I felt about this one.  It’s as if there are multiple strands.  There are dreadful crimes, multiple deprivation, people with a history of drug abuse, human misery in all its forms.  But there is also an institution which seems to work – there is obvious humanity and respect in the way in which it is run.  And the Chaplains have found that position which is what makes the role special – moving freely at every level and respected at every level; representing and modelling Christian faith but not prosletysing; not part of the ‘system’ but part of what makes it work as a community.  I spent some time looking for the origin of that quotation, ‘You can tell the state of a country by the state of its prisons’ but couldn’t find it.  I was very glad I went.  I also ponder the extraordinary nature of a job which allows me to visit a prison and Gleneagles Hotel in the same week …..