Daylight in prison
Stephen found himself in prison after becoming addicted to and dealing in heroin.
He faced a long sentence inside and felt as if life had lost all hope. Then a prison visitor introduced him to Jesus Christ. Stephen looked at the gospel for himself, realised his need of a Saviour and became a Christian in prison. He saw his life transformed by the Lord Jesus as he began to live for him. Stephen served the remainder of his sentence, overcame his addiction and after release decided he wanted to share the good news of his Saviour with other offenders.
Stephen is now part of the Daylight team and works with Christianity Explored to take the gospel into prisons so that more offenders can see their lives transformed and given a new hope for the future.
1000s of prisoners reached
It is stories like this which remind us what Daylight Christian Prison Trust is all about. The 83,000 prisoners in the UK are an often forgotten mission field who need the gospel just as much as the rest of the community.
Working with prison chaplaincies, churches and other Christian organisations, Daylight was established in 2004 to take the gospel to prisoners across the UK, so that lives would be changed by God’s grace. Daylight’s relationship with chaplains enables them to go into prisons to lead Bible studies, chapel services and meet with prisoners individually. In 2009, Daylight was able to visit 50 prisons and made contact with over 3,000 offenders.
Revolving door of crime
Daylight’s workers are often asked how the Government reacts to an evangelical Christian organisation accessing prisons. The Government is currently facing a crisis in the criminal justice system. Out of the 83,000 prisoners in the UK, 47% reoffend and are back in prison within 12 months.
For those whose original sentence is under one year, the reoffending rate increases to 60%, and short-sentenced offenders have an average of 16 previous convictions each. This revolving door of criminality is a big issue for Government departments who are not only facing a prison system almost at capacity, but are coping with limited resources available for rehabilitation programmes to prevent a merry-go-round of crime. Therefore, the Government is welcoming faith-based organisations into prisons, recognising the role that they can play in rehabilitating offenders.
Support after release
What the Government sees as only a means to reducing reoffending, Christians recognise as the transforming work of the gospel which changes hearts, minds and behaviour. Daylight believes that the answer to the problem of reoffending is the Lord Jesus’s saving work on the cross.
However, they also know that for those who have become Christians inside, practical support is critical after release. Many ex-offenders face a former lifestyle hostile to their new life as a Christian and therefore need help to integrate into the community and a local church. They need support both inside and outside of prison.
To respond to this, Daylight is setting up regional Prayer and Support Groups to help local churches with ex-offenders seeking to adjust to life on the outside. Prayer and support groups provide Daylight with its local roots, which means they will be able to respond to individual needs by referring ex-offenders to local service providers for housing, employment, health and family support. They can also put an ex-offender in touch with a support group in whichever part of the country they are sent to after release.
Most importantly, they are able to provide the support found only in the family of God. Local knowledge helps to integrate an ex-offender not only into a community but also into a church, so that they are given the opportunity to grow in their faith.
The gospel to the cell door
This co-ordinated approach to ministry means that more people like Stephen hear the good news of Christ and are nurtured in their faith after release from prison. The opportunity for the gospel is great and the door is wide open for Daylight to take it right to a prisoner’s cell. Stephen is only one of the many stories that Daylight has been part of over the last six years and they pray that there will be many more telling their story. One prisoner serving a sentence for murder said: ‘I thank God I came into prison... it’s not easy in prison, but life is beautiful ... because I have a relationship with [God]’.
The Rev. Dr. John Scott,
CEO of Daylight
To find out more about how you can pray for, support or be part of Daylight’s work in your region, visit http://www.daylightcpt.org
(All figures: Prison Reform Trust 2009 and National Audit Office 2010.)