Caritas works for the most vulnerable people of society across England and Wales, providing support for families and children, the elderly, the homeless, refugees, the disabled and prisoners.
Pact is a national charity which supports people affected by imprisonment. Pact offers practical and emotional support to prisoners’ children and their families and to prisoners themselves.
Below is Brian’s account of the help he received from Pact and the effect it had on him.
For many people coming out of prison can be a lonely and frightening experience. Without the adequate assistance of family or friends, many fall back into old patterns and end up replicating a cycle of crime and imprisonment over and over.
For the occasion of Prisoners’ Sunday, 11 October, Pact has interviewed Brian, a past beneficiary of Basic Caring Communities, a resettlement project made of four volunteers who put their faith into action to help an ex offender after release.
Brian, how did you get to know about Basic Caring Communities when you were in prison?
It was two weeks before my release, the chaplain came up to me and asked if I would be interested in having someone to meet out in the community. I took grip on the offer because I was a single man, with no family, nobody that would come meet me at the gate. It seemed a good option for me.
How was your experience with Basic Caring Communities?
If I have to be honest, the first couple of weeks it was the incentives rewarded to me that enticed me to go to the meetings. But after the second week I started to look forward to go to the meetings because of the people. It was nice to be able to speak to ‘normal’ persons who were out of the system and away from anything else that was going on. I was in supported housing with likeminded people who went through drugs and alcohol like me. It was good to be able to get out from that.
Obviously I would gravitate more towards the two gentlemen of the group because of the football, more things in common to talk about, but the two ladies were also really nice and supportive.
How long did they support you for?
They supported me for the full 12 weeks. And I must tell you that two of them now, after two years, are still really good friends of mine, and one of them I see on a regular basis once or twice a week.
Do you feel that you were prepared to be out in the world on your own after those 12 weeks?
Not exactly, you have to understand that it takes much longer to be able to stand on one’s feet after prison, but having that initial support helped me to change my way of thinking and reacting.
How do you think it would have been without the support of the Basic Caring Communities group?
I would be back in prison. The environment you live in becomes a problem for people like me, there were many issues coming up. Many times I felt like I was hitting the bottom. It was a Pact volunteer, a good friend of mine that would come and see me every week and keep me from giving everything up again. It would have only been a question of time before I’d be back on the streets, robbing, doing everything I used to do and start the process again.
At this time, after two years, I’ve not engaged in any crime, I’ve abstained from drugs and alcohol. I’m in college doing counselling course, doing English GCSE; I am also working with Pact, I just got a new position with them, so all is really good. Last month I also was received into the Catholic Church. This journey of Faith is something which the people at Pact have been a key factor in; I am immensely grateful.
What would you like to say to other people like you who are considering joining a Basic Caring Communities group?
I’d tell them that they must remember not to put too many expectations upon the volunteer and be ready to do their part. Pact gives you a safe and friendly group of people that you can contact and you can phone on a daily basis and, although all these things seem small in their ways, they do help you. Many times the environment you’re in is the ultimate cause that brings you to achieving failure, so having someone separate from that was for me a huge and important help and so it will be for others.
If you want to learn more about the work of Pact and the opportunities to put your faith into action and volunteer in Basic Caring Communities or in other projects, please visit http://www.prisonadvice.org.uk.
Offering Hope to People in Prison
Many prisoners (as many as one in four) in a Youth Offenders’ Institution are held in conditions bordering on solitary confinement, spending 23 hours out of 24 confined to their cells according to the Howard League for Prison Reform.
This is widespread in our prisons as reported by HM Chief Inspector in his report on Rochester YOI in February this year, and by the Prison Reform Trust in their report ‘Strangeways 25 years On’ in March.
Against this background, prayer groups become very difficult to organise, and prisoners struggle on their own. Roman Catholic Prison Chaplains are begging for Bibles and other catechetical resources to support the prisoners in their care in their journey of faith, a faith re-awakened by their time inside and away from home.
“Thank you for the Bible. It is beautiful and has helped me with my faith. It has been a long journey and it has put me on the track to rightness, faith, hope and goodness.” Mark, HMP Isle of Wight.
Catholic Truth Society Prison Appeal 2015
The Catholic Truth Society launched its Prison Appeal 2015 at Easter this year with an Appeal to Members and Supporters of CTS. So far £12,000 has been raised of the target of £30,000 by Christmas 2015. Visit http://www.ctsbooks.org/filedepository/appeals/prison%20appeal%20(interactive).pdf for donations to the CTS Prison Appeal 2015 via the CTS website. Visit http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/catholictruthsociety/prisonappeal for the leaflet which tells you more about the appeal and other ways of donating to the CTS Prison Appeal 2015.