Archbishop visits Prison Radio Association at HMP Brixton
Friday 20th January 2012The Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Prison Radio Association at HMP Brixton yesterday, during which he spoke with prisoners about their training and work in prison radio.
He also gave an interview for broadcast on National Prison Radio, where he spoke about the many choices facing prisoners, restorative justice and spirituality in times of crisis. The developing radio station currently reaches 40,000 prisoners and aims to educate, to support rehabilitation and to reduce reoffending.
He praised the radio service as a ‘wonderful idea’ describing it as something which ‘gives people the chance to open up their relationships and possibilities’ and as ‘a great gift - and I really want to encourage it as much as I can.’
Countering the perception that prisoners have a limited number of choices to make, he reminded listeners that ‘moment by moment there are choices that make you a bit more human, a bit less human. A bit more open, a bit less open. A bit more understanding, a bit less understanding.’
Dr Williams went on to say that the prison service should focus on helping prisoners to make choices that will make a difference, ‘to help people take more of their own authority, freedom and capacity, and go out with it and do something creative with it.’
In praise of the prison radio service, he said that ‘one of the great jobs that this radio station does is to remind people they’ve got those choices, they’ve got the capacity to turn things around for themselves bit by bit. It doesn’t happen overnight, but getting those choices right, and getting the vision that helps you along, and getting the friends alongside who really encourage that’.
On the subject of restorative justice, the Archbishop described the process where criminals meet the victim of their crime as a ‘really important idea’. Giving people the opportunity to see the consequences of what they have done, not in abstract terms, but by being face to face with the person who has been affected by their actions, provides a big ‘growing point’ . Dr Williams told the extraordinary story of a couple who had met their son’s murderer, describing the experience as both incredibly painful, but providing a significant breakthrough.
The Archbishop was also asked about whether he felt that religion should be a more significant part of daily life, not only during hardship or crisis. He responded that religion should be considered ‘more as a long term investment’, offering a way to connect, both with yourself and with God in good and bad times – ‘connecting to something bigger than you will carry you through the bad times’.
He ended the interview by reemphasising the importance that prisoners seriously consider the choices facing them – ‘it’s worth it because of who God sees in you, not what your neighbours see, not what society sees, not even what you see, but what God sees in you.’
Archbishop Rowan continued his visit by joining Peter Gibson, director of Central London Samaritans, HMP Brixton Governor, Edmond Tullett, and Co-ordinating Chaplain, the Revd Phil Chadder, for the presentation of certificates to prisoners who had recently completed a 'Listener' training course run by the Samaritans. Listeners are prisoners who have been trained to listen and provide peer support to prisoners in distress. The Archbishop praised the prisoners who volunteered to be listeners for being willing to take the risk of opening themselves up to someone else's feelings and being ready to help.
National Prison Radio is a partnership between the Prison Radio Association and the National Offender Management Service.