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“There could be no such things as prison in a truly Christian society.”
I think a truly Christian society is based on the life and teaching of Jesus, this means we must follow the 10 commandments and the gospel values. At the heart of Christian society there should be existence of love, forgiveness, mercy, justice to criminals. Jesus’ command was to “Love your God, Love your neighbour and Love yourself.” By obeying these commandments we are being Christ-like which is what the Christian society is all about.
Forgiveness does not mean letting people walk all over you! But it is important. Christianity follows Jesus’ teaching in stressing that forgiveness is vital. It may be very hard, particularly for the victim of a crime. The Prodigal Son was a parable that showed forgiveness.
The prison is the means to deliver the punishment, the denial of freedom. The convicted are imprisoned as a punishment, not for punishment. “Her Majesty’s Prison Service serves the public by keeping in custody those committed by the courts. Our duty is to look after them with humanity and help them lead law abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.” HM Prisons Service’s Mission Statement 1988.
Three principles in prison craft:
Security- to hold securely those sent to prison.
Humanity- to treat prisoners with humanity, prisoners lose their liberty they
should not lose their humanity. They are still human beings with
the rights that their nature awards them.
Assistance- to help make prisoners law abiding and give them useful lives.
Prison can exist in a truly Christian society but not always, poor prison conditions do not lead to reform, they only serve to make prisoners worse. To become better people they need first and foremost their dignity, remember Jesus’ command to love self, this means having a good self-esteem.
Prisoners have a right to feel safe, the opposite happened in Fletham Young Offenders Institution. March 2000, 19 year old Zahid Mubarek was beaten to death by his cellmate, Robert Stewart had a history of racist and violent behaviour. This evidence does not allow for fostering self-esteem or provide opportunities to rehabilitate.
For prison to uphold Christian principles the reform of the offender is of paramount importance. Practical measures such as education, drink and drug therapy and counseling are required. There is evidence that education effects personal change in prisoners, not only through the acquisition of practical skills and knowledge, but also through fostering self-esteem and skills in communication.
Mike Hart, Category A prisoner, killed a 20 year olds woman in an armed robbery. Whole in prison he become a born again Christian, and has worked on projects while inside to help young people be aware of what prison is really like in an attempt to turn young people away from the life of crime or potential crime. One such project, “Better Out than In” was a drama presentation re. The image of prisoners and prisons, depicting the harsh reality. How effective his work been, very difficult to assess but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is.
There could and couldn’t be such things as prison in a truly Christian society, it depends on the type of prison and what happens in the prison as to whether prison has a place in a truly Christian society. For prisons to co-exist in a truly Christian society they need to have therapeutic regime employed to rehabilitate the offender rather than punitive one. Not many people can uphold the mission statement, so it needs to be looked at and improved in order to fit into a Christian society. If we look ahead Christians today can also help reform prisoners like the Howard Penal League, where prisoners where able to reform by their help. During the 19th Century Elizabeth Fry Quaker who was a Christian went to prison to help rehabilitate criminals.