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Community chaplain plan for Norwich Prison

The Rev Judith Wilson, Norwich Prison chaplain, pictured in St Mark’s Chapel at the prison with governor James Shanley.
The Rev Judith Wilson, Norwich Prison chaplain, pictured in St Mark’s Chapel at the prison with governor James Shanley.
A pioneering scheme at Norwich Prison aims to break the cycle of reoffending by linking chaplains and prisoners inside jail and continuing the religious connection outside.

Prison bosses hope to introduce the new project next year and believe it could drastically cut the percentage of convicts

Three out of every five male adult prisoners nationally reoffend within two years of release and the rates are increasing. But Swansea jail, which has piloted the scheme, has brought down the figure and now only one in five of its former prisoners reoffends.

The Rev Judith Wilson, Norwich Prison's chaplain, said: “If only a few people are saved from
reoffending, it will save money. When prisoners are released with no help or support on the outside it's easier for them to get back into bad habits. But if they get help through a chaplain in prison and this help continues on the outside, it's easier for them to stay straight.”

A draft budget for the three-year community chaplaincy project would cost an estimated £300,000, Rev Wilson said the money would be recouped through the number of prisoners who don't reoffend. It would also prevent there being a next victim, she added.

Governor James Shanley said: “We are in the early stages of setting up a community chaplain scheme, and are in discussions with the YMCA and other agencies.”

John Drake, chief executive of Norfolk YMCA, said: “A lot of people are working collectively and creatively because the last thing we want is offenders reoffending. It costs £30,000 to bring a prisoner to trial at crown court, and £23,000 a week to keep them locked up. That is money that could be spent on hospitals, teachers, and other things.

“We have knowledge of working with angry and vulnerable young men. The project shows that Norwich and Norfolk is looking for creative ways to meet traditional problems.”

As well as working with prisoners, the community chaplain will recruit, train and support volunteer mentors to provide a range of support services and befriending and mentoring programmes for prisoners on the outside.

Support will include a listening ear, addiction support, assistance in seeking accommodation, information, advice and guidance on education, training and employment.

There will be particular support for those people who are waiting to get into treatment for drug and alcohol addictions.


See story on Prisons Week debate


See story on Prisons Week Service


Story and picture courtesy of


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