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Prison System - A topic to gossip and be informed on

Prison System - A topic to gossip and be informed on

October 18 2013

The Anglican Bishop of Wellington will end his week long prayer vigil for prisoners and associated victims this Sunday morning.

Bishop Justin Duckworth hopes his action, in a prayer cell outside Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, has left the country more informed about the current prison system and more willing to consider alternatives to prison that better serves victims and offenders.

"Prisons are intended for society's well-being, yet two thirds of prisoners reoffend in two years. So we need to realise that a prison sentence only works in a minority of cases. As a society we need to consider options other than prison that can repair the harm to victims, their families, and the community," says Bishop Justin.

One wall in Bishop Justin's cell is papered with a list of every jail cell, in every prison in the country. During the past week he has systematically prayed through that list for approximately 8100 prisoners, and for all the victims.

Each day he has also led midday services that were attended daily by about 80-90 people, at which he spoke briefly about an aspect of penal reform. The topics included the underlying causes of crime, such as poverty, and alcohol and drug dependency, and the need for prisoner reintegration into society. 

Bishop Justin says he is not protesting at any organisation but there is ample research that shows punishment alone does not address the causes of crime, nor solve high rates of reoffending, nor foster safer communities.

"The government has rolled out an extensive restorative justice programme but we as a society have been slow to adopt such programmes. Research shows that 74% of victims surveyed felt better served by a restorative justice approach than by a prison term being served," says Bishop Justin.

Bishop Justin applauds the government initiative that was further detailed this week with measures to ensure each prisoner gets the education they need. His concern is that until now he has seen and heard too often that short term prisoners miss out on much needed education and rehabilitation, including literacy and drug and alcohol dependency, as their sentence is under two years or they cannot read.

"It is hard to have fewer victims of crime when too many prisoners leave with the only skill being able to offend again. That's why prisons become a revolving door and that kind of justice does not serve anyone," says Bishop Justin.

Bishop Justin will leave the prayer cell to speak and lead midday services today and on Saturday for an hour. His prayer vigil will end on Sunday October 20th at 10am as he leads a service in the Cathedral. This will be followed by a media conference at 11.30am at the Cathedral.


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