For Prisons Sunday, Aled Jones is given access to HMP Wayland in Norfolk to meet staff and prisoners and introduce a selection of hymns from around the country.
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Today is Prison Sunday.
It's the start of a week of prayer and support
for everyone involved in prison life,
including prisoners and the victims of their crimes.
I'm being allowed into a closed prison,
HMP Wayland, in Norfolk,
to seek out examples of belief behind bars.
Tonight, I meet some of those
who live and work in this prison community,
and congregations from towns and cities all over the country
which have a prison as part of their community
sing hymns of penitence
'Built in 1985 in the Norfolk countryside,
'Her Majesty's Prison Wayland is a Category C prison.
'That's for adult males who aren't likely to try to escape,
'but can't quite be trusted in an open prison.'
-How are you?
Here in Wayland,
there are around 1,000 inmates who currently fit that description.
Bob Wilson is a Baptist minister
and a member of Wayland's multi-faith prison chaplaincy team.
There's no godless place.
You know, God is, essentially, everywhere,
and he's just as much in here as he is
out through the gates the other side.
But haven't prisoners failed God in a serious way?
They've failed humanity in a serious way, they've failed themselves in a serious way,
they've failed their victims and community in a serious way,
but I don't think God is surprised at what they did.
I think God knows all of us.
Jesus, in Matthew 25, was really, really clear,
when he said that when you look into the eyes of prisoners, you see me.
He says that for whatever you did
for the least of these brothers of mine, you did also for me.
And so I often think, when I look into the eyes of prisoners,
I see the eyes of Jesus there.
The Stations of the Cross here in the prison chapel
graphically tell the story of how Jesus, an innocent man,
was executed as a common criminal.
And yet, with almost his last breath,
Jesus forgave his murderers
and showed compassion to a repentant thief.
Contrary to popular opinion, prison is far from being a holiday camp.
Very few possessions are allowed outside the basics,
but prisoners can have access to music
and to things they might need to practice their faith,
in what's otherwise a strict and spartan environment.
But the noise of rattling keys and banging doors is never far away.
This prison's a really good training prison
that is working every day with prisoners,
to try to support effective rehabilitation.
We have, in the Prison and Probation Service,
a motto that talks about preventing victims by changing lives.
And that's absolutely what Wayland's about.
It works very hard with individual prisoners
to make them think about why it is that they've been offending,
to give them skills to help them to change.
Very many prisoners
come in with very low levels of numeracy, literacy,
and we also train them in ICT.
So, there's a whole range of vocational training
as well as programs to help them to think through...
about why they have been offending.
I really believe God has placed me in the prison.
In here, we run Level I and Level II plastering
and Level I and Level II bricklaying and, basically,
we kit the guys out so they can build a house, really,
from bottom to top.
Is it wise giving prisoners tools that they could use for escape?
They're all checked before we start each session.
They're all checked after each session.
There're all locked away safely at the end of the day.
They're really well-protected.
I know this sounds silly, but I get that light bulb moment,
when you see somebody can do something for the first time.
The guys need to learn, and if we can give them a hope for the future,
they can find work, they'll be earning and putting back into the community,
which is what it's all about.
There's been people go from this prison and helped in the community recently,
and it's important that we can do that.
They can't do that without the skills.
As well as learning new skills,
prisoners can even earn a little money,
some of which is paid into a fund for victims.
So, good behaviour is rewarded.
If you don't abide by the rules,
any privileges can - and will - be taken away.
But compared with prison conditions in centuries gone by,
the loss of liberty is now regarded as enough of a punishment.
One person prisoners have to thank for that
was an 18th-century Quaker, Elizabeth Fry,
who helped reform the prison system, to make it more humane.
Our next hymn is by the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier
and comes from Elizabeth Fry's own meeting house in nearby Norwich.
David has been in prison for 13 years.
He won't be released until at least 2014.
We're here for a reason,
I'm here for a reason. So...
..it's not supposed to be nice.
But it can be very beneficial.
And I've chosen to make it benefit me.
I've been on a journey,
I've done all the education stuff, I've done vocational stuff,
I've made myself employable, which I probably wasn't when I came away.
But, for me, it's finding out who I am,
finding out who I can be.
Anybody who I've hurt...
..any victim who I've created...
..I can only hope that I can prove that I can be given a second chance
and I can get a second chance with their blessing.
I suppose you try and blame all sorts of things
for things that go wrong in your life.
But...the realisation that...
you are in control of everything you do,
you have a choice to make, you have decisions to make,
and you make the wrong choice, you make a wrong decision,
you've got to take responsibility for that.
It can get very lonely at times and you can feel very alone.
Although you do build up a rapport with people in prison,
whether that be staff or...other inmates,
I can only take it to a certain point.
And that's very difficult, because I am a very...
I suppose I'm an emotional person, and I do miss my family
and...that separation is very hard to deal with.
Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love, have mercy
and walk humbly together with Christ in His strength
and in His spirit, now and every day.
The chaplaincy, they do more
than just the traditional religious support.
Sometimes people are not necessarily religious, but when there
are sad times or deaths in families and such like,
the chaplaincy is someone that they can turn to.
But it's also someone staff can turn to.
You have to have compassion in this environment.
Some people are very distressed. It's a very human place to be.
You see all range of human emotions on display.
So compassion's important. It's essential for any prison officer.
My philosophy has always been, they've been judged,
my job isn't to judge them, they've been judged.
My job is to look after them...the best way I can in here.
I've been in some situations where you think, wow,
this could turn really nasty, but the staff here are fantastic.
You do get some good support and you've got back-up all the time.
Sounds trite in lots of ways, but God is everywhere.
And yes, very definitely with prisoners and staff.
To me it's the sort of basis of what I do.
The hymn And Can It Be is my favourite hymn.
It might be seen as a risky one for the Head of the Prison Service,
because the fourth verse is about a prison escape.
It's about Peter escaping from prison in Jerusalem,
when the angel comes and his handcuffs fall off
and he gets out past the guards and amazes his friends.
And everyone can know that freedom and release through God's love.
And in prison, that freedom might well be a spiritual freedom,
rather than a physical freedom, but it's life-changing nonetheless.
Visiting those in prison is an act of mercy which Jesus said
was akin to doing the same for him.
The Wesley brothers were prison visitors in the most dangerous circumstances.
Prisoners still rely heavily on volunteers to visit them.
Very often, there's quite a lot of interest in matters of faith.
Some of them say that when they're on the outside,
they had very little opportunity to think.
So busy making life for themselves, making money illegally or legally.
When they come here they've got more time than they want to think.
And for those who've been in and out for some time,
they're looking for a new way of life.
Certainly those who come to the chapel are looking for something
and I think we have something important to give to them in our own Christian faith.
I see them as human beings.
All of us are ragged, for want of a better word,
and certainly my belief in the eyes of God is that we're all ragged.
It's just that I've been fortunate that the things I've done wrong
haven't ended me up in an institution such as this.
But there are so many untapped gifts in the guys that are in here,
it's staggering. It staggers me regularly.
I tutor something called the Sycamore Tree course,
or the guys call it a victim awareness course.
And it looks at an alternative justice system
and looks to restore the guys into the community when they're released.
It actually gets them
to thing about the effect of their crime on their victim.
And part of the course, on the last session,
the guys carry out something called a symbolic act of restitution,
which involves... It can be a letter writing.
I've had guys sing songs, write poetry, do pictures and so on.
When we see guys being released and we hear that they've settled,
they've made a home, they've made a life for themselves,
what more reward could you possibly want?
The pure and contrite heart in Charles Wesley's hymn
is based on Psalm 51.
David the King and Psalmist was also an adulterer and murderer,
until he repented.
I'm not sure if you can have true forgiveness without there being
a sense of remorse in the person who is being forgiven.
There's a huge misunderstanding about forgiveness, I think.
Forgiveness is not about letting people off.
Crime is about hurting people
and when you see that crime is about hurting people
you have got to understand
that there has got to be an element of punishment
and there has also got to be an element of how does that person
change so that they don't hurt someone else again?
So, there should be, especially for the Christian,
no Get Out Of Jail Free card.
They can understand God's forgiveness but they've also got to understand
that they've got to change and move forward from that place.
David's serving a life sentence for his part in a murder.
The chaplaincy are helping him
explore ways of expressing remorse to all those affected by his crime.
Some might say, "If you are a Christian in the first place
"then why would you commit a crime?"
The times I was doing things
I shouldn't have been doing and all the stuff
I shouldn't have been doing as a Christian,
I was still learning, you know? I had a lot to learn.
As much as I felt I knew the lot or knew everything, I didn't.
I made mistakes. A lot of mistakes.
I have learnt from a lot of the mistakes I've made.
'I've always looked to God and asked for forgiveness for things I've done.
'It came to a point where,
'when I can't keep doing things wrong
'and asking for forgiveness, it's time to do things right
'and being inside this time
'has afforded me the time and space to really get to grips with that.'
I'm not just going to turn to God and ask, "Can you forgive me?"
I'm going to kind of prove that I should be forgiven
and try and make up for anything I've done wrong.
'I'd like to help people not to make mistakes,
'definitely not the mistakes I've made,
'but to break the cycle before it's too late,
'before they have to go through an experience what I've gone through.'
The words of our next hymn writer, John Newton,
emphasise that even for him, a former slave trader,
it was never too late to seek forgiveness.
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 actions of others
especially the victims of crime.
Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, to love mercy
and to walk humbly together with Christ
in his strength and in his spirit.
And may God bless you now and every day.
For our final hymn, we join the congregation
at St Anne's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Leeds
to sing with confidence
that we are all ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven.
Next week, Sally meets composer Paul Mealor
who wrote last year's Christmas hit for the Military Wives Choir
and introduces hymns and songs from Dunblane Cathedral
with an all-male line-up -
the boys and young men of the National Youth Choirs of Scotland.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd