Can the Church be instrumental in reducing crime statistics for the Greenwich borough? I believe we can if we try! Belmarsh
Prison is on our door-step with approx 800 inmates. There are plans afoot to extend
Belmarsh to include a Young Offenders Institution (YOI) with a further 800 beds. To add to that, at any one time, the
borough has approx 800 people on probation.
In 'Tackling drugs to build a better Britain' it was reported that 70,000 offences were committed by 664 people in the
space of 3 months. Drug related crime costs the criminal justice system at least £1b per year.
Carjacking - London had 1200 carjackings in 2001. In the same year street crime, including robberies and carjacking, rose
by 39% against the previous year. The Metropolitain Police believe up to twenty organised gangs run most of the carjacking
operations in London. The worst case being the stabbing to death of Tim Robinson, 25 year old estate agent, killed while
parking his car in Battersea.
The prison population has reached an all time high of 73,000. That's 78% more then the prison population was 10 years ago.
This figure is set to reach 82,000 within 3 or 4 years. There are approx. 10,000 young inmates in prison (under 21) - half
the prison population are under 24. Of those released, 75% re-offend, 53% re-offend within 2 years of release. Crime
has increased 500% since 1960. There are 6450 thefts every day (5 every minute), 142 drug related offences every hour,
a motoring offence every 3 seconds, 5 sex offences every hour. 95% of crime is committed by males. 19% of 16-24 year old's
will have used drugs this month. 6.7% male, 1.3% female aged 16-24 commit a crime.
It costs approx. £37,000 to keep a person in prison per year. So if Belmarsh was running at 90% capacity for a
year it would cost £26,640,000. When Belmarsh II is completed we can double that figure to £53,280,000.
Statistics from the 'Social Exclusion Unit Report' show that while in prison a third of inmates will loose their home, two
thirds will loose their job, and two fifths will loose contact with their family.
In London, street crime is up 33%, from 26,715 incidents to 35,572. There has been a
nationwide increase in muggings of more then 26% in the past 9 months.
There are on average 2 gun related incidents every day.
Did you know that there are 3000 children in prison in the UK? Even sadder news is that 31 have died in prison
in the past 4 years. These children can also be subject to Solitary Confinement - 4,500 have been in the past 2 years.
The picture is gloomy mainly due to the child protection act stopping at the prison gates - but that has
just changed. This will now be extended to protect children in prison. 3000 children in prison sounds
like a small number but they represent only 4% of those taken to court.
As for crime in the Greenwich borough - Average of 70 street crimes per month, 233 burglaries per month,
82 racial incidents per month, 5 homophobic incidents per month, 336 domestic violence incidents per month, 7 rape
offences per month, 587 vehicle crimes per month. The local paper, 'The News Shopper', reported on Jan 23
2002, that "A raid on a flat in Abbey Wood uncovered an astonishing £11m haul of heroin .... The borough
recorded 247 cases (possession and PWI) taken to court, compared with second place Westminister's tally of 147."
But on the bright side - Everyday inmates are making some form of commitment to
Christianity. The ‘Alpha course', which is an introduction to Christianity, is
currently being run in 80% of prisons in the UK. 21,000 inmates have now completed the Alpha course in the UK.
Prison Alpha is run in 40 countries around the world - its run in 48 of South Africa's prisons. In Belmarsh prison there can
be as many as 30 men making a commitment on a Sunday morning.
Another favourable point to note is that the prison Govnors have now been tasked to increase the number of inmates put into work
upon release (Custody to work strategy).
Prison ministry, bridge-building Christians from prison into local Churches, aftercare for ex-offenders are areas of work
that you may like to get involved with. Pray about it!. Prison
Fellowship is an international organisation dedicated to Christian ministry within prisons. They provide
comprehensive training to Christians that want to be involved in Prison ministry. They currently have two groups running
Christian services within HMP Belmarsh in Thamesmead. They assist the Chaplaincy during the week and in the main
The next step for Greenwich Church is to welcome these people into our Church. Easier said then done - but with the help
of Prison Fellowship and Holy Trinity Brompton, and the Churches desire to open its doors we can do it! Later in 2002
we hope to introduce a Prisoner/ex-offender mentoring scheme where a church member will mentor a prisoner that has made a
Christian commitment prior to release, and carry this in for several months after release. This will be a pilot scheme run
within the Greenwich borough. Watch this space!!
Finding the offices when leaving prison
Helping a leaving prisoner is a ministry in itself. One way to help is to give them
the addresses of the offices that they will need to visit incase they dont know them.
Greenwich Church in conjunction with
'Bridging the Gap' have created a
search page that
will give you the addresses - all you need to know is the ex-offenders postcode.
Need a Prisons address?
If you are looking for the address and phone number for a prison in England & Wales, then
look no further. Greenwich Church is developing a facility with 'Bridging the Gap' to give you the addresses
from one simple web site. All you need to know is the
Need to know the name of your MP?
If you are looking for the name of a Member of Parliment for a particular constituency, then
Why not try the
House of Commons
web site. You will need to know the name of the constituency!! If you want to write to them, send your letter to :
House of Commons
Don't forget to write the MP's name on the envelope! Very important!
If you want to know more about Christian prison work then here's some useful material
to inspire you. I would personally recommend the 'Christians in prison' talk by Geoff Phillips at the
annual 'Caring for ex-offenders conference' Holy Trinity Brompton. or visit their web site
What God's upto in texas USA
Read what God is doing with the Prison Fellowship's
Program in Jester II prison, Texas USA.
Or you may want to know about "Faith-Based" Prisons in America.
Further Reading ...
If you want to get a better feel for the Prison Service and Belmarsh Prison then I would recommend the following Home
Office reports to peruse.
Home Office - Belmarsh Prison inspection report 1999
HM Prison Service homepage
Crime reduction homepage
If you would like to know more about Prison fellowship England & Wales, then checkout their website
or drop them an email,
or snail mail them :
PO BOX 945,
You may also like to see the
Prison Fellowship International web site to see what Prison
Fellowship is doing across the world.