Archbishop Wilson is the Vice President of Pact, the national Catholic prisons charity. He recently visited Brixton prison in our Archdiocese and spent time in the chapel listening to a group of prisoners and offering them words of hope. He gave each a rosary and an individual blessing.
‘I was in prison and you visited me’
Pact staff worked with the Catholic prison chaplaincy to support this visit. The Archbishop was greeted outside the gate by Pact CEO Andy Keen-Downs and members of Pact’s Faith in Action team. He was welcomed inside the prison by the Governor, Sonia Brooks OBE. Catholic chaplain, Isabelle, took him on a tour of the prison where he was able to speak to some of the men in their cells. More dialogue followed over lunch which was shared with some of the prisoners, the wider chaplaincy team, prison staff and members of Pact staff.
Archbishop Wilson’s visit ended in the Visitor Centre which Pact operates. He took the opportunity to speak to family members preparing to visit loved ones and to hear from Pact staff and volunteers about the work Pact does supporting prisoners and their families. Brixton prison is where Pact’s innovative Routes2Change programme began.
Archbishop Wilson gained some insight into the way Pact promotes a “family first” culture in all aspects of the prison’s regime here. The Pact team meets prisoners on their first day in custody when they can feel overwhelmed and frightened. The team offers support for themselves and their family and continues to support them ‘through the wall’ up to six months post-release. As well as implementing some of the recommendations of Lord Farmer’s seminal report, this approach reflects Pact’s mission to build stronger families and safer communities.
As Pope Francis says in Fratelli Tutti:
‘No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us.’
Archbishop John Wilson reflected on his work with Pact and visit to HMP Brixton
‘The Lord Jesus said: ‘I was a prisoner and you visited me.’ As someone who has worked in prison chaplaincy, I have some small insight into the challenges that prison brings for prisoners and their families, and to prison and chaplaincy staff.
I was very pleased to visit Brixton prison and witness first-hand the excellent contribution that Pact is making to supporting prisoners and their families both during and after, their time in prison. We have a hope in Christ that a new beginning is possible for everyone. The work of Pact and the positive attitude of prison and chaplaincy staff, reinforces the need for all of us to collaborate towards a better future for everyone’s benefit.’
Contact Theresa and Marie in the 'Faith in Action' Team: