Christians have always held out the candle of hope in the darkest places. Prisons are no exception. They have campaigned for prison reform, like the Quaker Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), who pioneered the campaign for better conditions in prisons during the Victorian Period in Britain.
Christians today, through the ministry of Prison Fellowship, provide inmates with training and transitional support as they move from custody back into the community. Their volunteers regularly spend time in each of Victoria’s prisons, listening to inmates, building relationships and responding to needs as appropriate. This is a pastoral care style ministry where volunteers are able to spend time with those whom our society often forgets.
Prison Fellowship also offers ‘SLAM’ (Sport Lights A Message), where sport is used to build relationships with those in prison and to share the hope presented in the message of Jesus Christ. Volunteers also write to inmates, supplying a vital life-line to men and women who may otherwise have little or no contact with people ‘on the outside’. Prison Fellowship also has a ministry to families and young people who have a loved one in prison. They provide camps, school holiday programs and Christmas & birthday presents to families free of charge. They also run a mentoring program and post release mentoring and community support.
In Victoria there were 6,522 prisoners on 30th June , 2016, which represents 138.1 per 100,000 of adult population. This was less than the Australian average of 208 prisoners per 100,000 of the population.
In recent years, the prison population has grown by as much as 8% per annum. At St Edward’s, we have annually participated in the Christmas ‘Angel Tree’ which is run by Prison Fellowship.