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Great Britain: Bishops’ document about prison reform

“A Journey of Hope” is the name of the document that asks for a reform of the British prison system and that was drawn up under the guidance of Richard Moth, the English bishop in charge of prison pastoral care. In the foreword, mgr. Moth writes that all this was prompted by the realisation that “we lock in more people that we can actually take care of or help change”. British prisons are in distress, since the number of convicts has risen by 77% in the last 30 years: “poor living conditions, high rates of violence and self-harming, widespread use of psychoactive drugs, convicts spending over 22 hours a day in cells” are found to happen, as the bishop reports. Not only “this is not dignified”, it is also one of the reasons “the rate of recidivism remains inevitably high, to the detriment of society as a whole”. Though it is known that alternative punishments, other than detention, are more effective, in England imprisonment is inflicted more and more often, even for short punishment, and for longer periods. The document takes inspiration instead from the question: “How do we respond to crime, and what will be more helpful for the victims, for the offenders and for society as a whole?” if we take “hope, forgiveness, reconciliation” as our standard values. The Bishops Conference of England and Wales already drew up a document in 2016 (“The Right Road: A Catholic approach to prison reform”), but now “a more dramatic change in our criminal justice system” is required.

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