I continued my journey through Prisoners’ Week by spending an afternoon with the Chaplaincy team in Perth Prison.
It’s hard to miss Perth Prison – it’s a big complex just outside the centre of Perth. There are over 650 prisoners at present and much of the prison has been rebuilt in the last few years.
It’s hard not to be disturbed by a visit to a prison. And yet my visit seemed to be about the efforts of the prison community to sustain a sense of humanity in what is essentially a somewhat inhuman situation. I had a meeting with the Deputy Governor who talked with passion about the way in which prisons have become relational places over the last twenty years. I’ve seen that for myself – much of the almost deliberate inhumanity has gone.
So I spent some time on one of the landings. I visited the Education Department. I also had a look at the area where prisoners are prepared for release – learning the skills to sustain their lives on the outside. Everywhere staff and prisoners were prepared to talk to me. Many of them were articulate and interested.
Could I be a Prison Chaplain? I doubt it somehow. But I can see the attraction of developing relationships over a long period and of being with people at what is a crisis time in their lives. I was glad I went and I’ll try to go again before too long