“Keep in mind those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them” Hebrews 13:3
Pact is a pioneering national charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families. Caritas Diocese of Plymouth were pleased to visit their Family and Visitors Centre at Channings Wood Prison near Newton Abbot to learn more about their work. Thanks to the wonderful Charlotte Dicks, Family Engagement Manager, for hosting the visit and answering our many questions.
Pact have a small team of staff and volunteers who run a welcome centre just outside the main entrance to the prison. The team offer support and guidance to family and friends coming to visit loved ones, as well as offering a friendly face and a cup of tea. It can be really daunting to visit a prison especially for the first time. The team help families understand what the processes are and what to expect. Inside the prison visiting room, they offer a play space for the children and food and drink that families can pre-order. They even accompany particularly nervous visitors through the security checks on their first visit.
The team also support prisoners to maintain their relationship with their families. This is so important to help people reintegrate when they leave prison. You can read more about the impact of engagement workers here https://www.prisonadvice.org.uk/davids
Charlotte covers both Channings Wood and Dartmoor Prison and is looking for additional volunteers to help at weekends. If you are interested in supporting their visitor centres, you can find our more here Visitors’ Centres | Prison Advice and Care Trust
Today Pact supports people of all faiths and none, working in more than 60 prisons, in courts, and in communities across England and Wales. The support of Catholic parishes has been and continues to be invaluable. There are more than 85,000 people in prison across England and Wales today. We incarcerate more people per capita than any other country in Western Europe. An estimated 97,000 children in our communities have spent their summer holidays knowing their mum or dad is in prison. During the Week of Prayer for Prisoners and their families (8-14 October) Pact urges every parish to consider how they can make a difference.
In September, every Catholic parish will receive a Prisoners’ Sunday pack with a poster, bidding prayers, and a message from Pact President Cardinal Vincent Nichols. The charity encourages all parishes across England and Wales to mark the day on 8 October – or another nearby Sunday – respectfully requesting a second collection for those who choose and are able to donate. The money raised will help Pact to do more in the year ahead to support women and men in prison and their children and families.
Pact will also be celebrating Prisoners Sunday at Plymouth Cathedral this year on 8 October with a service led by our Diocesan Administrator. Do come along if you can!