Above is a photograph of HMP East Sutton Park, an open prison outside of Maidstone. It houses just over 100 ladies at any one time and boasts on of the very best records at halting re-offending in the country. Little wonder- the surrounds are pleasant, the ladies are treated with respect and encouraged to live and work in community, tending to the working pig farm and nurseries. The whole thing having been founded by an eccentric Christian lady who had a genuine heart for people. One can smell the Christian founding vision in the ethos here.
Each Wednesday I travel to East Sutton Park Prison to offer Mass for the Catholic residents and hear confessions. To conduct interviews and go for walks around the grounds, to ensure I become a familiar smiling face to all who work and live here. It is a welcome change to the daily routine and often humbling; for there is something refreshingly open about the people here, many of whom have painful and broken backgrounds. An honesty you do not always find in comfortable middle class settings!
Today I visited prison for an inspection of the chaplaincy department. The full time chaplain had organised lunch and we were joined by the Sikh, Moslem, Free Church and Anglican chaplains. And, a pleasant surprise, the inspector was in fact an old friend- a lady who had trained for Anglican ministry with me at Westcott House in Cambridge! It was great to see that she has found her vocation and is clearly flourishing having risen to become one of the most senior chaplains in England. Fingers crossed that we pass with flying colours!