Humanist pastoral support in prisons: Amy Walden

Sunday May 18th Hop Blossom Pub

Probation Officer Amy Walden spoke about her pioneering pastoral care work in Winchester prison.

John de Prey reports on the meeting:

“Currently, chaplaincy teams comprised only of representatives of the major religions provide pastoral care for prisoners. Amy Walden, a probation officer working with prisoners in HMP Winchester, explained how, in practice, providing religiously committed support to prisoners and ensuring their right to practise their religion, discriminates amy-waldenagainst those without religion. The chaplaincy teams though responsible for providing pastoral support to all prisoners, give none for those who would chose a non-religious viewpoint. This is because the chaplaincy teams do not include Humanists – or others – who would willingly interact with prisoners with an atheistic or agnostic viewpoint on their own terms, and with prisoners who for any reason might simply feel uncomfortable talking to religiously committed people.

Clearly then, spiritual guidance is currently provided within the context of religion, so any prisoner who shuns religion will receive no help in his spiritual/moral growth. Chaplains may also provide emotional support and access to the chapel to prisoners not allowed to attend family funerals. This is no comfort to atheists.

Humanist chaplains could provide unbiased support, encouraging prisoners to believe in themselves and find their talents, or to discussing beliefs with an open mind. Furthermore, they could inform on such crucial information as non-religion based charities and housing providers.

Given that over 35% of prisoners profess no religion. It seems logical to offer humanist and religious chaplaincy on an equal footing.”




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