Below Fr Robert Lasia, Chaplain to HMP Forest Bank describes the work of a Prison Chaplain
A few days ago I bumped into a couple of prisoners walking down what we call main stress back to their wing. One of them said to me….will you walk with us and so I accompanied them to the wing. After it struck me that that request summed up very well what the life and ministry of a prison chaplain is. We are asked to walk with prisoners whether they have a faith or none at all from the moment they come in through Reception right to the day of their discharge. And sometimes even beyond.
Prison chaplains usually work in ecumenical teams and here at Forest Bank we have chaplains from most of the major religions. We are responsible for ensuring that prisoners from our own faith background are able to celebrate their feasts and festivals and receive instruction regarding their faith and have opportunity for regular worship. As well as faith specific activities we also have what is called statutory duties such as seeing the new receptions on a daily basis to make sure that their religious registration is recorded correctly and if there are any immediate issues we can deal with. Also we have to visit daily inpatients in our Healthcare and those who are in Care and Separation (what used to be known as Segregation or the Block!), respond to applications requesting to speak to a chaplain, bereavement and family issues, seeing prisoners who self-harm and those who are about to be discharged.
Many prisoners do turn to their Faith when they are in prison. They find it a force in their lives which encourages them to understand that they are not hopeless losers bound to failure, that there is a reason for their existence, that they are loved by a merciful God, and there is real hope for rehabilitation and their becoming valued members of society. We do work therefore with faith communities some who have offered acceptance and belonging to prisoners on release. This is something that we would like to develop with our own parishes. I sincerely believe that the main work of a prison chaplain is to help a prisoner see that he does have dignity, that he is valued by God and by us. Once a prisoner comes to realise his own dignity then it’s my hope that he will see and appreciate the dignity in others.
That is why we are prepared to walk with them, to spend time with them, to listen, to pray with them, to encourage family contact when appropriate. Our walk with prisoners has many slips and trips on the way but with the help of God we walk with them along their journey.
List of Prison Chaplaincies
HMP Manchester (Strangeways)
Chaplain: James Gallogly
Tel: 0161 817 5600
HMP Buckley Hall
Chaplain: Liz Creagh
Tel: 01706 514340
HMP Forest Bank
Chaplaincy Manager: Rev Robert Lasia
RC Chaplain: Rev Flavian Ohanyerenwa CSSp
Tel: 0161 925 7037