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icon: Greenwich Church CrossQuote: Bishop of Kensington  

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).

Quote:Bishop of Kensington

 

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 Sunday services.

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 prison name.

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
London
SW1A 0AA

Don't forget to write the MP's name on the envelope! Very important!

Resources ...
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 at www.caringforexoffenders.org.

What God's upto in texas USA
Read what God is doing with the Prison Fellowship's 'InnerChange' 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 www.prisonfellowship.org.uk, or drop them an email, or snail mail them :
PO BOX 945,
Maldon,
Essex
CM9 4EW

You may also like to see the Prison Fellowship International web site to see what Prison Fellowship is doing across the world.

 
   
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