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.
Queen Victoria admired her, the King of Prussia travelled to London to see her impact, and Sir Thomas Foxwell Buxton praised her work in Parliament. Because of her, thousands of prisoners in England had better lives. Get to know Elizabeth Fry.
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.
Bibles provided by you are being snapped up by prisoners almost as soon as they arrive in prison libraries.
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