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08 December 2011

Bringing hope to prisoners this Christmas

Bringing hope to prisoners this Christmas

This Christmas there are 94,000 prisoners who will experience a very different Christmas to the one that we will. While we celebrate with friends and family, many prisoners will feel lonely as they are separated from their families and struggle to cope with Christmas behind bars. 

Daylight's prison team will be visiting prisoners across the UK and will be working with prison chaplains in the run-up to Christmas to remind prisoners of the true meaning of the festive season through carol services and Bible studies. At a time when 50 per cent of the prison population claim to be from a Christian background, there is a great opportunity to reach people with the good news.

Celebrating at Christmas is often a long way from a prisoner's mind. With many prison officers on holiday, prisoners may be locked up for longer in their cells so Christmas Day feels anything but a national holiday. Christmas also highlights to them the guilt of their crime, the monotony of prison life and the hopelessness that they feel. Stephen James, part of Daylight's prison team in Wales, and an ex-offender himself, says: "Christmas can bring tears to the hardest man inside. I thought the quicker this time of year is over the better."

But for some prisoners who have found new life through Christ this is a time to celebrate. The unseen efforts of prison chaplains to help prisoners celebrate their faith inside prison cells, on prison wings and in prison chapels across the UK are often overlooked. So this Christmas, Daylight's supporters are sending their Christmas messages and prayers to prison chaplains across the UK to remind them that their work is vital in sharing the Christian faith with an often forgotten group of people.

Daylight was set up in 2004 to reach prisoners across the UK. The trained volunteers work in partnership with prison chaplaincies to run Bible studies and chapel services, and help equip local churches responding to the needs of ex-offenders in their community after release.

In 2010 Daylight regularly visited almost half of the prison estates across the UK (more than 60 prisons) and had contact with over 4,000 prisoners. Since 2009, they have also been providing ongoing practical post-release support to ex-offenders as they reintegrate into a community and adjust to life on the outside.

Speaking about Daylight's Christmas appeal to supporters, Daylight's CEO John Scott said: "We want to remind prison chaplains that their commitment and their sacrifice at Christmas - when they give up time with their families to help prisoners celebrate - is so important to prisoners who look back on their time inside as the time when God showed them how they could be truly forgiven and given a new start in life. Daylight's work with prison chaplains is a great opportunity to see change from the inside out and we're calling upon our supporters to help this happen this Christmas."