"A deeply thought-provoking lecture."
Jen Williams, Tsedaqah House Community Member writes: "77 people gathered together in the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott Suite last Monday evening to listen to Liverpool Cathedral’s annual Prison Lecture. This year the lecture was given by Mim Skinner, author of Jailbirds: Stories from a Women’s Prison. Soon to be turned into a series for the BBC, the book captures the lives and stories of the women that Mim had worked alongside as an art therapist in one of the 12 women’s prisons in the UK.
The lecture was deeply thought-provoking. Our views of prisons can be often influenced by sensationalist media stories or TV crime dramas that it becomes easy to dehumanise the residents of our country’s prisons. Mim shared statistics at the start of the lecture which revealed that 48% of women who left prison were reconvicted within a year, often due to lack of housing and a lack of support with addiction and mental health problems. The vast majority of women are in prison for non-violent crimes and many commit crime to support the drug habit of someone else (often a coercive partner). A third of the women in prison had grown up in the care system.
Mim turned our focus to the sheer resourcefulness and creativity of the women she had worked with, showing us their artwork, talking about the many uses women would find for the unlimited supply of tampons in the prison (makeup brushes, floor cleaners... even fake snow!) and she talked about those women having life experience and a level of understanding people far superior to other people.
Our views of prisons can be often influenced by sensationalist media stories or TV crime dramas that it becomes easy to dehumanise the residents of our country’s prisons. Mim reflected on the biblical figures who spent time in prison, St. Paul, even Jesus himself who would have been held in custody before being put on trial and publicly executed.
In the discussion afterwards there were interesting points made about hopelessness, particularly those struggling with Class A drug addiction, and the need to hold on to hope for those caught up in the cycles of crime and reoffending."
Mim stated that there were no clear answers to the issues in the prison system, but that longer sentences and longer times behind bars was definitely not the answer to solving the issues.
Following this year’s Prison Lecture, we invite you to:
- Read: Mim Skinner’s book ‘Jailbirds’. Copies are available from the Cathedral bookshop to buy (RRP: £16.99)
- Listen to the lecture: The lecture is available on SoundCloud to listen to here. Share the lecture with others and continue the conversation.
- Step forward: Consider using your gifts in prison volunteering or prison ministry in your local prison.
- Give: Support the work of Adelaide House, Women’s Approved Premises situated in Liverpool which offers residential support and interventions for up to 20 women. Could you help Adelaide House by donating or volunteering your time and expertise?
- Read Sarah Beresford’s blog for the Prison Reform Trust about the need to change our own perceptions and see women not as ‘offenders’ but as women, daughters, wives, partners, sisters...
- Pray the Prison Week’s Week Prayer: Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in his Spirit, now and every day. Amen.