From Heather Roy’s Diary
In an attempt to find cheaper alternatives, a high profile delegation has been on a trip to Europe. The trip was arranged to investigate how prisons are used in Europe and to study alternatives to New Zealand’s prison system. Damien O’Connor was there in his capacity as Minister of Corrections. Kim Workman (representing the Prison Fellowship) and Garth McVicar (representing the Sensible Sentencing Trust) accompanied him.
The Prison Fellowship is a Christian group promoting programmes based on faith to rehabilitate prisoners. Mr Workman is a former head of the New Zealand Prison Service who tells an interesting tale of his own experiences when in 1991 Prison Fellowship Board members visited him in his capacity as head of the Prison Service.
“Six Christian men, including the current Chairman, Mr Ian Elliott, asked to see me. They told me about the Humaita Prison in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is run by a group of Christian volunteers, and boasts a re-offending rate of around 5%.”
Mr Workman was very polite, but unhelpful.
“I listened to their story, offered them a plate of wine biscuits and a cup of tea, and then showed them the door. I recall saying to my colleagues after they left:
‘These Christians are well-meaning people, but they must be away with the fairies if they think a prison can produce a result like that.’
At that point, I heard someone laugh. I now realise that it was God.”
Yours Truly; I’m not a Christian, but I acknowledge that religious conversion, specificly Christian conversion, is probably the most successful rehabilitative activity in NZ prisons.
Why, because religion, especially Christianity, recognises that humans are “beings”, not just biped animals. Humans have the power of choice and the power to change their behaviour. Humans are responsible and accountable.
Give a man some hope, talk to him on spiritual level, get him to search his own soul and you may help him change his life.
Absolve him of blame, tell him its his Mum’s/Dad’s/Society’s fault and you have zero chance of getting him to look inside-where the real answers are.
The more Christians working in our prisons, the better, I say. Give Christian groups every opportunity to work among prisoners and I bet our recidivism rate will drop significantly.