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Prison Mission

Bible Society has a rich history of working in prisons and alongside prisoners, dating back to our very foundation in 1804. Bible Society’s founders and early leaders included William Wilberforce and the Earl of Shaftesbury, and many of them – members of the Clapham Sect of evangelical Christians – were committed to prison reform and changes to the penal system.

History of Bible Society's Prison Mission

In fact the Earl of Shaftesbury’s success in improving the care of those detained for mental health reasons under the 'Lunacy Laws', as they were known, is arguably one of his greatest, yet least-known, achievements. Another early figure in the life of Bible Society, Thomas Fowell Buxton, was an influential campaigner for prison reform, particularly around improvements in conditions for prisoners. Buxton was a keen advocate for the work  of renowned prisoner reformer Elizabeth Fry, ‘the angel of prisons', and even featured alongside her on the back of the Bank of England £5 note issued from 2002–2017, in a painting of them visiting Newgate Prison in 1816.

Bible Society is committed to carrying on that legacy. Working with prison chaplains, and prisoners directly, we aim to improve access to Bibles and Bible engagement materials in whatever language prisoners need, in the belief that by engaging with the Bible their lives can be changed, for good.

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