Black and white Church leaders, practitioners and academics gather in London this week, as part of Prisons Week, to explore reasons for the acute over-representation of black people in British prisons, and with the General Elections next year looming church leaders plan to make their findings clear to all parties for greater political awareness and action on an issue that has long affected black communities in the UK.
These meetings take place as the Equality and Human Rights Commission says there is now greater disproportionality in the number of black people in prisons in the UK than in the United States. Overall, black prisoners account for the largest number of minority ethnic prisoners, with 26% of all prisoners being from a minority ethnic background compared with 10% of the general population (Prison Reform Trust 13/14).
Commenting on the need to tackle black over-representation in prison, Revd Bob Wilson, co-organiser, said, ”This Prisons Week we would like to help the Church respond to the issues which have led to over 22,000 black people finding themselves behind bars. As faith communities we need to take seriously our responsibility for moral leadership and these events offer us the chance to dig deeply into some of the root causes of this social injustice”
Bishop Joe Aldred, co-organiser, describes the situation as ‘a matter of social and racial justice. Either black people are pathologically crime-orientated or the social space we all share needs urgent attention because it appears to disproportionally discriminates against some of its citizens’.
The symposium and church service have been organised by Churches Together in England www.cte.org.uk and the Free Churches Group www.freechurches.org.uk and are expected to attract attendees from around the country.
2) Prisons week is an annual event highlighting issues relating to prisoners and their families, prisons staff and volunteers, and the victims of crime. This year’s theme is ‘Building Hope’ based on 1 Thessalonians 5.11.
3) A symposium ‘Interrogating black overrepresentation of black people in prisons’ takes place on Friday 21 November 2014, 2-5PM, in the Chapel, Westminster Central Hall. Pre-booking is essential – email firstname.lastname@example.org A church service with the theme of ‘Interrogating black overrepresentation of black people in prisons’ takes place on Saturday 22 November 2014, 5-7pm, at Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, Woolwich. London SE18 6NL (for directions: www.cftchurches.org) All are welcome to attend. Speakers include: Dr R David Muir, Pastor Nims Obunge, Dr Martin Glynn, and others.
4) The Free Churches Group is an affiliation of 24 Free Churches Denominations and Church groups, working together to promote faithful witness in the public square.
5) CTE Purpose: ‘Churches Together in England unites in pilgrimage those churches in England which, acknowledging God’s revelation in Christ, confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures, and, in obedience to God’s will and in the power of the Holy Spirit commit themselves: to seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another in the Church, which is his body; and to fulfil their mission to proclaim the Gospel by common witness and service in the world to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ Further information on www.cte.org.uk