Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Prison Conversions

Prison conversions happen.  It has been said that prisoners are very likely to hear the Gospel in the prison context because of the activities of Prison Fellowship, Restorative Justice programmes, Kairos initiatives, Alpha courses, chaplains, volunteer Christians workers and other Christians active in prison visitation and ministry.  There have even been claims of revival breaking out in Her Majesty's Prisons.  And I rejoice in all who come to faith and a deeper walk with God in and through these many forms of Christian ministry in prisons. Services and Christian courses have been well attended in recent years, with significant help from the voluntary sector.

In The Times today it was reported that there has been a dramatic rise in inmates converting to Islam, but this religious phenomenon was "in order to gain perks and the protection of powerful Muslim gangs."  It seems that benefits can be received that are only available to practising Muslims.  There are currently 9,795 inmates listed as Muslim, according to 2008 figures.  The latest figures would be much higher then, well over ten per cent of the total prison population in England and Wales.

Inmates learn quickly what is beneficial and how best to cope with the harsh realities of prison life.  Strategies to avoid being locked in a cell for hours on end, sometimes with someone who is bad company, can lead to changes of behaviour.  The regime can be dull and monotonous, so religious conversions offer a different way.

Personally I would prefer to spend time in the chapel or faith room, where there are works of art and religious symbolism, to the cramped conditions and smell of the cell.

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