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Joining forces for Prisons Week

Ever since our founding in 1804, Bible Society has been involved in prisons. Founder William Wilberforce was a vocal campaigner for prison reform, and for decades we’ve provided Bibles to prisoners in their first language.

2020 marks the first time we’ve joined the national week of prayer for prisons – and we hope you will be inspired to join in.

Prisons Week is a time for Christians to pray for all those connected to prisons: prisoners and their families, victims of crime and their communities, people working in the criminal justice system and the many people involved caring for those affected by crime. It’s been going for more than 40 years, and starts on Prisons Sunday, the second Sunday in October.

‘People are quite wary of prisons and prisoners,’ said Revd Bob Wilson, Chair of Prisons Week. ‘It’s easy to think of prisoners as “other”… the monsters over the wall. But they are people who sit beside us through life. And it’s hard to feel biased against someone if you are committed to praying for them.’

83,533 Prisoners in England and Wales (October 2019)

This year, the theme of the week is: You are not alone. As Bob said, ‘The word lockdown comes from prison. And we’ve all experienced that lately. So we’re united in lockdown, and united in prayer.’

Bob, a regular visitor to prisons, says the service has coped admirably during the coronavirus pandemic. But the crisis has taken its toll. Thousands of prisoners and staff caught the virus in England and Wales, and there have been a number of deaths. Many of the 80,000-strong prison population have been locked in their cells for 23 hours a day to limit the spread.

Now, more than ever, those involved in prisons need prayer – and each day of Prisons Week focuses on a different group of people. Bob added, ‘There’s something very powerful about Christians in the community praying alongside prisoners, for families, children, staff and others.’

95,228 Children with a parent in prison (October 2019)

For Bible Society, our involvement in Prisons Week signifies a step-up in our commitment to reaching a marginalised, overlooked community with God’s word.

Last year, thanks to our generous supporters, we gave out more than 2,500 Bibles to prisoners in 51 institutions, including prisons, young offenders’ institutions and secure training colleges.

One in eight Bibles were in English, and other languages included Polish, Romanian and Hungarian. Working with the network of prison chaplains, our aim is to increase distribution so that every prisoner who wants a Bible can get one, free of charge.

The Bible Course: Prisons Edition

This year also saw the launch of The Bible Course: Prisons Edition. This eight-session course explores the big story of Scripture, and has been specially adapted for prisoners. Before lockdown, 700 prisoners in 26 prisons had already taken part in the course in small groups. From July, we re-edited the material to create a 16-part Bible TV series which could be broadcast directly into prisoners’ cells during their confinement. The series is screened in around 30 jails, with the potential to reach up to 15,000 prisoners.

And a specially-written gospel booklet, Matthew: A Message of Mercy, has been provided to 2,000 prisoners in 52 prisons – with more orders in the pipeline.

Chris Auckland, who oversees Bible Society’s prison ministry, said:

‘In the last few years we’ve made a more concerted effort to be involved in supporting prison chaplains. We have a vision to see the Bible change people’s lives, for good, in prisons, and we’re delighted to be working alongside other amazing organisations to achieve that.’

It’s clear the Bible can, and does, change the lives of prisoners. Bob said, ‘Prisoners are always open to discussing faith. Someone who would never speak to a vicar outside prison will happily chat to a chaplain in prison. We regularly see the effects of someone accessing faith, in their behaviour and attitudes.

If you’d like to get involved – or get your church involved – in Prisons Week, visit to download prayers for 11-17 October.

They went out into the streets and brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike. And the banquet room was filled with guests.’

Matthew 22.10, CEV


Join us in the Prisons Week prayer:

Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the activities of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another. To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and in his Spirit, now and every day. Amen


Author: Bible Society, 13 October 2020

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