I imagine that many of you are aware that we have a Prison in our Parish, HMP Cornton Vale. However, you may not be aware that some of our members support the Prisoners and their families at Cornton Vale Prison in a number of ways.
The handbags that we collect and donate, through the church office, are used as part of a drive to help support the ladies as they are released from prison by filling them with toiletries and essentials they will need upon their release. We also have some members who support the prisoners and their families through the Family Help Hub and prison visiting.
In addition to this there are a couple of ways that I am now involved with the Prison and there are a few ways that we, as a Church, can further our involvement, and I thought I tell you a little about it.
Recently I was invited and accepted the invitation to be a trustee of the Stirling Interfaith Community Justice Group.
The group was set up in 2007 and the following extract from the mission
statement - ‘To promote the welfare and to, relieve the needs of families and individuals adversely affected by imprisonment and community sentencing , believing that with the help of the faith communities men and women can be encouraged and supported to turn their lives around.’
There are a number of difficulties faced, not only by prisoners but by their families, and these can have long term and wide ranging impacts on their lives.
Through the work of family help hubs, as SICJG runs at Cornton Vale, some of these difficulties can be mitigated against. The provision of Family Centres enable families visiting their loved ones to feel welcome, less stressed and more confident about visiting their family member. Families have improved access to take up emotional, financial and practical support which is independent and impartially delivered. They have increased quality contact with their
family member in prison and the Centre also serves as advocates for the needs of prisoners’ families towards the prison system.
SICJG delivers this through 3 employed staff and the services of over 45 volunteers covering all of the visiting sessions at Cornton Vale. All volunteers receive training on a range of relevant courses covering subjects such as Child Protection, Mental Health First Aid, and professional boundaries. In addition we engage with at least 6 agencies, who provide specialist support to the families.
Further to this there is a small group of volunteers who visit prisoners who perhaps have no family member to visit them and who are glad just to talk with someone who is not a prison officer or a fellow inmate. A regular visit from one of our volunteers goes some way to ease the pain associated with a long sentence.
Last Autumn SICJG were invited to set up and operate a family visitor centre at Glenochil Prison which is scheduled for opening in April 2017 and will require further paid staff and volunteers. If you are interested in finding out more about this please come and speak to myself or Lesley Christie.
Of course, as Cornton Vale is in our Parish, this is not the only way we can support them and I am currently building a relationship with their chaplaincy team. This is with a view to supporting them and working with them. This is at a very early stage but it is possible that we will at least engage with them during Prisoner’s week at the end of November.
We have received two letters of thanks from SICJG for donations we sent from the Social Team and Sunday School, totalling £1,072.91.