Theresa Alessandro, Catholic Community Engagement Manager with national Catholic prisons charity Pact, writes:

We would like to thank parishioners in Brentwood Diocese for their generous support for Pact around Prisoners Sunday in 2021. Your donations have helped to ensure we are able to continue supporting prisoners, people with convictions and their families. Together we are responding to Jesus’ challenge: ‘I was in prison and you visited me.’

Pact’s vision is of a society in which justice is understood as a process of restoration and healing, in which prisons are used sparingly and as places of learning and rehabilitation, and in which the innate dignity and worth of every human being is valued.  We work for the common good of Society, taking a public health-based approach. We work at the intersection of criminal justice, child and family welfare, mental health, wellbeing provision and health & social care.

Picture by Andy Aitchison

In Brentwood Diocese, Pact works in Snaresbrook Court which is the busiest Crown Court in England & Wales. Pact volunteers provide practical and emotional support and advice throughout the often overwhelming court process. We take time to talk to families before their loved one appears in court, sit with them through the hearing, trial or sentence and provide support afterwards. You can read more about this aspect of Pact’s work here: Court Support Service | Prison Advice and Care Trust

Men and women from the Brentwood Diocese who are serving prison sentences ‘over the border’ in other dioceses may well meet Pact staff inside. Our work reduces violence and the risk of suicide and self-harm in prison. Our innovative Routes2Change programme operates at Isis and Brixton prisons where we support the men and their families from their first day in custody until six months after release. This dedicated ‘wraparound’ support helps people make a fresh start whatever they may have done.  One family member told us: “…they made a very, very difficult time a lot easier, just by having someone to talk to, or feeling you were supported.” We know that nurturing family relationships where appropriate reduces the risk of someone committing more crime. This makes our communities safer too.

We hope parishioners know about the National Prisoners Families Helpline which Pact operates seven days a week. Pact can provide Helpline posters for churches, halls and other community hubs. We take calls from family members and professionals and offer a listening ear and sound advice to anyone who is affected by imprisonment. The number is Freephone 0808 808 2003.

This year Prisoners’ Sunday falls on 9 October. Please mark the date in your diary. Meanwhile please keep prisoners and their families in your thoughts and prayers. Prisoners tell us that it means a lot to know someone is praying for them.

Pact is always interested in people who can give time as volunteers. Some of our paid staff began their journey with Pact as volunteers themselves. We are also interested in hearing from people who might like to be a parish point of contact for us: a Pact Parish Representative. Pact welcomes people with lived experience of the criminal justice system as volunteers, as staff and as Trustees.

Contact Theresa and Marie, our Faith in Action team: [email protected]

Information for Parishes and Groups Support for Parishes and Groups | Prison Advice and Care Trust